JONESBORO — After a sometimes contentious public comments period, the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library board of directors failed to remove three books from the children’s section.
Member Mark Nichols made three motions to remove “It’s Perfectly Normal,” “Gender Queer” and “Later Gator” from the children’s section. None of the motions received a second, thus dying.
The library has been a source of controversy since a display was set up in June in the children’s section celebrating Gay Pride month. Many parents thought the display and some books in the children’s section were inappropriate. Members of the LGBTQ community and its supporters backed the library.
Members tabled a report from the Sensitive Materials subcommittee because more work needed to be done on it.
At the start of the meeting David Eckert, the library’s director, addressed the board and the standing-room only crowd.
“I want to set the record straight. We don’t buy pornographic material,” he said. “Some books are graphic, but we not promoting anything.”
Eckert said the book “It’s Perfectly Normal” can be bought at Walmart or Target.
During the public comments, Steven Summers read a book titled “The GayBCs” which is in the children’s section. After reading it, Summers said people have been harassing the library and its staff over the books and the display.
Chenoa Summers spoke about the book and praised their inclusiveness of all people.
“Being gay is not a mental illness,” she said.
Jason Goad, who said he’s pastored churches in Northeast Arkansas for more than 20 year, said the library should keep materials like those books away from children.
Beth Tennison said she wants objectionable videos removed from where children can access them.
“Materials need to be free of propaganda,” Tennison said. “As a mother, I want the board to put protections in place.”
Kaila Henick thanked Nichols.
“I want to thank Mark for standing up for our kids,” Henick said.
She said one of the books in the children’s section was pornographic. Nichols said the book should be moved to a different section.
Mitch Doss addressed what he thinks is a lack of oversight.
There’s a lack of gatekeepers for children’s material,” he said. “The book ‘Gender Queer’ was next to a Superman comic.”
He said “Gender Queer” has depictions of oral sex and masturbation.
“Make this place a safe place,” Doss said.
Amanda Escue, a former board member, stressed the safety of children.
“We have to be good stewards,” she said. “I home-schooled my children using the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library as their library. We want our children taken care of.”
Janice Porter said she’s a 38-year resident of Jonesboro and took her children to the library all of the time.
“The management thus far has been adamantly unwilling to take any measures to assist parents in protecting their children … I must question the judgment of the library management.”
She ended by saying, “I ask this board and director to end your shocking indifference and make accommodations for parents who wish to protect their children from early sexualization.”
Sharon Stallings spoke protesting Eckert requiring wearing a face mask during board meetings. She removed her mask as she began speaking, but was told by the board to put it back on.
Kimberly Owens praised the staff for the Gay Pride display.
“To the dismay of many, not all people here are Christians,” she said. “Let the professionals do the job they were hired to do.”
Rebecca Robinson said, “Jonesboro is more bigoted and hateful that I had ever imagined. I will raise my children with science and knowledge and compassion.”
Stephanie Nichols said the board and staff need to exercise more discretion over specific things.
Will Hose, a former member of the library staff, continued to push for inclusion.
“Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for,” he said.
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