Community divided: Battle over teen section library books erupts in Fairhope

Lifestyle Editor
Posted 9/13/23

FAIRHOPE — A debate over banning books that been capturing national attention took center stage at a Fairhope City Council meeting Sept. 11. The council chamber was brimming with supporters on …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Subscribe to continue reading. Already a subscriber? Sign in

Get the gift of local news. All subscriptions 50% off for a limited time!

You can cancel anytime.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Community divided: Battle over teen section library books erupts in Fairhope


FAIRHOPE — A debate over banning books that has been capturing national attention took center stage at a Fairhope City Council meeting Sept. 11.

The council chamber was brimming with supporters on both sides of the issue. At the heart of the matter are 12 books that sit on the shelves of the teen section of the Fairhope Public Library.

Brian Dasinger, a Fairhope resident and criminal defense attorney, represented the Faith, Family, Freedom Coalition of Baldwin County during the open discussion period of the meeting. His group said the book "are inappropriate to market to minors.”

“Children under the age of 18 are still in a developing stage with their minds, and many of the books contained in the library have really little to no redeeming benefits,” Dasinger said. “We fear the impact of these books on young adults and juveniles may result in mental health issues and unnecessary loss of innocence.”

This isn’t Dasinger’s first appearance before the Fairhope City Council to content concerns. In previous months, he represented the group Keep Fairhope Family Friendly, advocating against the Color Fairhope with Pride event and the Color Fairhope with Pride Drag Brunch.

Dasinger urged the relocation of the books in question from the teen section to the adult section. The titles on the list include:

  • “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George Johnson
  • “Beyond Magenta,” by Susan Kuklin
  • “Doing It,” by Hannah Witton
  • “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe
  • “It Doesn’t Have to Be Awkward,” by Drew and Paulina Pinsky
  • “Queer There and Everywhere,” by Sarah Prager
  • “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood
  • “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas
  • “The Sun and Her Flowers,” by Rupi Kaur
  • “Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard,” by Alex Bertie
  • “Tricks,” by Ellen Hopkins

In addition to asking for the removal of these books from the teen section of the library, Dasinger called for the library board of trustees to review the employment of one of the librarians based on his review of her Facebook page. In the review, they found her support of mandatory masking, people who identify in the LGBTQ+ community, abortion and “other Marxist ideology.”

“Her views do not represent the ideals of the majority of Fairhope residents, and we would like the library board to strongly consider replacing her with someone who is more representative of the family values that most of our residents encompass,” Basinger said. “We are asking the Fairhope City Council and the library board to clean up our library.”

During the open discussion period, each speaker is given three minutes. The crowd started to respond vocally when Basinger went over his time limit. Council President Jay Robinson asked the crowd to quiet down and let them know he would be enforcing the time limit. Throughout the evening, those in attendance had small outbursts, a bout of what sounded like booing and some extremely loud coughs meant to drown out comments.

Over the hour and a half, approximately 20 to 25 people spoke. They were evenly split on which side they supported.

While Basinger was the first to speak, the second was Anne Johnson, FPL board of trustees chairwoman.

“For over 120 years, the Fairhope library has had a mission of bringing a wide variety of resources to our community. In a typical year, we have zero or maybe one request to reconsider a book purchase. We have a process for that,” Johnson said. “In the last three weeks, we have had three requests, each with a book list totaling some 55 books. This kind of feels like a coordinated and targeted attack on the library.”

Johnson said many of the books on the list are for young adults. The request made to the board was to move the books from the teen section to the adult section or sequester them in the library. She said that would make the books inaccessible to their primary audience.

“This is a form of censorship. There are young people in our community who may be struggling with their identity, with the teen years, who may not have a support system at home, at school or at their church who may be being bullied or even (contemplating) suicide. We may have books in the library that can help get them through a difficult period. No one person or group has the right to dictate what books and information others have access to. This is a form of censorship.," she said.

Johnson said the selection of materials in the library is an inclusive process and has a mission to provide a diversity of points of view and subject matter.

“The library board is unanimous in supporting the right to read for all Fairhope citizens," she said.

Fairhope resident Amanda Dasinger (wife of Brian Dasinger) read some sexually explicit excerpts from the book “Boy Toy” to the council.

“As a mother, I don’t want my children groomed by my local library," she said.

A small group of Bayshore Christian Academy students read prepared statements in favor of removing the books in question from the library.

Fairhope resident Jada Pryor said she did not come with a prepared statement or the intent to speak but that comments made by others prompted her to speak. She first spoke to the community her family found at the library when they first moved into town. She then spoke in support of the librarian Brian Dasinger asked the library board to terminate as well as the importance of the library and the programs offered.

Pryor said there were not any teenage supporters there to speak in support of the librarian because they were at the library, participating in a program put on by the librarian.

“I love this town. I love my babies, and I love Jesus, and the best way that I show that is to not attack people in public forums that are using their lives to be of service to others,” Pryor said. “Including speaking out for the freedom of what people read.”

One of the final residents to approach the microphone was B.K. Gray.

“I don’t want to leave tonight’s meeting without knowing how we go forward on this. I am pretty sure no one that came tonight changed their mind,” Gray said. “A group came to ban books, and a group came to defend books, and no one changed their mind. So, what do you guys do now to protect the library and keep it the way it is?”

Robinson, the council president, answered by talking about who has the power to make the changes.

“Quite honestly, we (city council) don’t have any input on what the library carries as books. The library has a board,” 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.”

Gulf Coast Media contacted Fairhope Public Library director Tamara Dean for comment regarding the removal of books.

She said, “Fairhope Public Library stands against censorship and supports the individual responsibility of parents to select which books their children read without infringing on others ability to do the same.”