Fairhope Library Book Issue Explained
|Fairhope Single Tax Conference Room, 10/16/23 FPL Board Meeting|
First noted at the standing room only September 11, 2023 Fairhope City Council meeting, Fairhope Public Library has received complaints of inappropriate books on display in the children and teen sections. Fairhope Library houses 33 of the 54 or so books on the BookLooks.org list provided to encourage parents to make informed decisions, according to their goals listed on their website.
Local attorney Brian Dasinger presented his argument that the obscene materials in question should be moved to the adult section due to their inappropriate nature. Several speakers followed all making the same conservative Christian talking points of obscenity and pornography in the library grooming their children. However, the most speakers by far were those that supported the library and its decisions of book selection.
The Fairhope City Council President Jay Robinson, also an attorney, noted that the library and all of its workings are not subject to review by the Council. The FPL operates with an independent board, elected by the City Council and as such, all concerns should be directed to the Library Board. The meeting was promptly adjourned.
Overflowing the 25 person capacity Fairhope Single Tax Conference room in the library at the following October 16, 2023 Library Board meeting, an eager crowd awaited the public comment portion of the meeting. Library Director Tamara Dean gave updates on personnel, budget, building and fundraising goals. The library has successfully completed its capital campaign to remodel the upstairs into a teen center. Over $1,100,000 was raised with contributions from the Friends of the Fairhope Library, City of Fairhope, Fairhope Single Tax and countless citizens.
Ms. Dean reported there were about 4,600 students that participated in the summer reading program and there are approximately 180,000 visitors per year that view their 83,000 items on display. The Library has about 21,000 registered users.
Ms. Dean also reported how books are chosen and placed on shelves. The Library uses 3 to 4 “Selectors” that choose books based on public recommendation, other libraries, the Library of Congress, and general discussion. She stated the goal of the selector committee is provide knowledge and access to books without personal bias and form a “balanced, sustainable collection”.
Continuing her report, Ms. Dean noted mysteries are currently the most popular and all books the library removes from circulation are placed on the free cart in the lobby. She concluded her report by stating the Library generally receives one or two reconsideration of book requests per year and currently has 14 submitted in recent weeks. She noted the current requests contain 33 books and listed them and stated when they were first available and how many times they have been checked out since.
Vice Chairman Andy Parvin reiterated that up for discussion are 33 books out of 83,000. That accounts for 0.039% of the available items at the library. He also stated that in the last 15 years, all of these books combined have been checked out less than 500 times and that number is artificially inflated by those in attendance to make a point. Parvin then began the public comment portion of the meeting.
|A retired teacher voices his support for the library.|
After several speakers voiced their continued support for the library and its staff, including a doctor, a reverend, and several other professionals and parents from the community, Dasinger began his comment by stating he hoped the board was aware of the Miller Standard. He explained how the standard was set by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1973 in Miller vs California and how it uses the work in question as a whole to determine if it is obscene, pornographic or inappropriate. Dasinger then clarified he hasn't read any of the books on the reconsideration request he submitted just the week prior. Dasinger stated the list came from BookLooks.org.
BookLooks.org was noted by library board member Randal Wright to largely be an offshoot of and supported by a group leading the current book protests around the country, Moms for Liberty. BookLooks and Moms for Liberty are indeed based less than 30 minutes from each other in West Melbourne, Florida. Moms for Liberty has been named an extremist antigovernment organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A speaker from the public stated she found 11 of the 33 books already in the adult section. The Board noted as many as 14 are already in the adult section. When questioned what his solution would be, Dasinger stated he didn't have one but that he hoped the library would respond to his reconsideration request by their next meeting which is scheduled for December 4, 2023.
The speaker who seemed to receive the most applause of the evening noted he grew up in Fairhope and struggled to see what the controversy was all about. He stated he was a member of the Fairhope Single Tax and encouraged the donations to the library and was in full support of its staff and Board. He said his research led him to the conclusion this controversy has nothing to do with books. This entire book controversy was solely a way for Brian Dasinger and his group to rile up a base of support so that he may ride that wave and run for City Council. Dasinger has previously ran and lost for District Court Judge.
All those present were thanked for their attendance and the meeting was adjourned.
|Attorney Brian Dasinger speaks at the 10/16/23 FPL Board Meeting|