The debate over which books should be accessible to children continued during the open discussion portion of the Sept. 25 Fairhope City Council meeting. Three individuals presented council with their …
The debate over which books should be accessible to children continued during the open discussion portion of the Sept. 25 Fairhope City Council meeting. Three individuals presented council with their concerns.
The debate started in Fairhope during the Sept. 11 open discussion period when 25 residents, young and old, expressed either concern or support of the library and 12 books available in the teen section. A local group, Faith, Family, Freedom Coalition of Baldwin County, has been leading the fight to move these titles to the adult section of the library or sequester them and require the interested reader to check them out at the desk.
Fairhope City Council listened to residents' concerns on both sides of the topic on Sept. 11 but let those in attendance know these issues should be expressed at the next library board meeting.
"Quite honestly, we (city council) don't have any input on what the library carries as books. The library has a board," City Council President Jay Robinson said. "A request was made to me to put this on the agenda, and my response was this is not a city council issue. This is a library issue. The library has a board, and I would expect that everyone that has expressed an opinion tonight will express that opinion to the board for the board to make that decision."
During the Sept. 25 open discussion period, Fairhope resident Stephanie Durnin of Hemlock Drive was the first to speak. She said she wanted to share a personal story on why she no longer uses the Fairhope Library, "which I pay taxes for," and travels to Robertsdale to use their library.
Durnin said she took her children to the library two years ago and walked around the teen library.
"The displays on top of the teen shelves were so abhorrent and so vulgar I took pictures of them," Durnin said.
Durnin passed out a packet to members of council containing pictures and descriptions of the books she photographed.
"When there are a million other topics that are available out there. I just don't see a need to highlight certain topics and certain books available for our children," Durnin said. "Sex and drugs and things like that should be kept on the shelves far in the back or down the hall in the adult section."
Durnin addressed Councilman Jimmy Conyers directly as he is the council liaison for the Fairhope Library Board.
"Mr. Conyers is the city liaison. I think a lot of us would have appreciated some type of verbiage from you Mr. Conyers last week as the city liaison to the library," Durnin said. "Hopefully one day, I will be able to return back to my city library without fear of my children being exposed to something so blatantly, so out in the open on top of the shelves with flags in them."
The second to speak with Jonah Elliot, a Bayshore Christian High School student. He also spoke during the Sept. 11 council meeting. He said he was there to counter comments from the opposition who say they are trying to ban books. He went on to say they are not trying to ban, just move the books to the adult section.
Last to speak was Wendy Pickering of Orange Beach. She told council she is a private investigator hired to look into some books at the Fairhope Library. One of the main books she investigated was, "It's Perfectly Normal."
"After looking at the book and reading some of the book and comparing it with the Protect Act of 2003, which is the federal law about child pornography," Pickering said. "It absolutely, and there is almost zero doubt in my mind that this book and several of them are but this one is the only one I am going to talk about. This is child pornography."
"It's Perfectly Normal," has several editions. Author Robie Harris updates the book to include news information. According to www.robieharris.com, the newest edition includes information to answer questions and concerns about puberty, sex, sexual health, reproduction, birth control, pregnancy, birth, families, LGBT, the internet, sexual abuse, STDs including HIV/Aids.
Pickering went on to say she was sending a report to the FBI and had already contacted Gov. Kay Ivey's office.
"I was already told they are taking this very seriously. I am just needing to know; do you all provide funding to the library? You do. Do you think it might be wise that you look at this book, you read this book and you look at the law?" Pickering said. "I have friends that are in the FBI, and I have showed them the pictures. It is obviously child porn."
Pickering ended by suggesting council close the library for a few days to "get the books down until Kay Ivey and they are able to figure out what we need to do with this situation because it doesn't look good."
Councilman Jack Burrell asked Pickering, "I am not a lawyer, but if you are an adult and you are in possession of child pornography that is criminal right?"
Pickering said it is.
The book debate seems to be focused on the Fairhope Public Library. Gulf Coast Media attempted to contact directors at all Baldwin County libraries to see if they had received any requests to review materials. We heard back from Orange Beach, Loxley, Daphne and the Baldwin County Library Cooperative, and none had received any requests. Two residents did speak during a Foley City Council meeting about concerns over certain titles, and Mayor Ralph Hellmich said they would review the materials. According to Foley Communications Manager Guy Busby, no formal requests had been submitted to the library to review materials, and the city is still reviewing the situation.