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Springdale council considers measure in support of library as patrons challenge books

by Laurinda Joenks | July 18, 2023 at 5:45 a.m.
<p>Springdale Public Library.</p>

SPRINGDALE -- The City Council, working as a committee of the whole Monday, moved forward a recommendation for approval of a resolution in support of library staff as they work to keep inappropriate material out the hands of children at the Springdale Public Library.

The council will vote on the measure during its regular meeting July 25.

The proposed resolution echoes Act 372, which will go into effect Aug. 1.

"Act 372 gives parents more options to have offensive material relocated in local libraries and school libraries," reads the website of the Arkansas Senate. "After making an objection to the librarian and if necessary making an appeal to the library board, parents would be able to appeal to the county quorum court."

The only major change for Springdale library procedures under the act is the body for appeal of a decision made by the library staff and board, said Anne Gresham, library director.

The library board would hear the appeal of a decision made by the library staff.

The Springdale Public Library comes under the purview of the Washington County Library System. The county system -- funded by the Quorum Court -- provides two-thirds of the municipal library's funding, with the city paying just one-third. The library's 2023 city budget is $2,920,655.

Springdale council member Brian Powell presented the resolution to the council.

"I was wanting it to be an encouragement of our library board and staff," he said. "We want to encourage the board and let them know they have our full support."

Powell said the council passed a resolution supporting the Police Department when police across the country came under fire and some people called for defunding police. The council also passed a 2019 resolution in support of the pro-life movement and claiming the city as a pro-life city.

"It's a nonbinding resolution. That and a quarter won't get you a cup of coffee," Powell continued. "But I just wanted to say we appreciate all your hard work. You have a brand-new state law that you have to follow. You have to change your whole procedure now. And we support you."

Council member Rex Bailey voted against advancing the measure, but he said that is not because he does not support the library. Rather, he said he voted against the resolution because it's not needed because Act 372 has already put the structure for appeals in place.

Gresham said the Springdale library this spring had received requests for removal of three books from the young adult section in its children's library. Powell said he was especially impressed by the professionalism of Gresham and her staff in response to the requests.

The only previous formal request to the library was in 2013, Gresham said.

"Even without the act going into effect, librarians like comment from the patrons -- whether they like something or don't," she said.

The books were "Gender Queer," a graphic memoir by Maia Kobabe, which the staff determined had been shelved in the young adult section incorrectly; "Flamer," by Mike Curato, which library staff left in the young adult section; and "Let's Talk About It: The Teen's Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human," a graphic novel by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, that was moved to the adult section.

Gresham noted the library board unanimously voted to move "Let's Talk About It" to the parenting section of the adult collection.

Ultimately, the board considered the audience for which the books was intended. They determined it was a guide for parents to talk to their teens about sex.

Powell said the graphic illustrations in "Let's Talk About It" were the worst he's ever seen. They "sickened" him, he said.

"It was the worst book I've ever seen," Bailey said.

"We've got some community standards," he continued. "They are not the same as Fayetteville. They are not the same as Bentonville."

He said he expects the Quorum Court to consider Springdale's standards when making decisions for the Springdale library.

Print Headline: Resolution supporting library staff advances


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