A website catalogs all the prurient gems one can find in the Saline County library.

Dueling billboards are in store for Saline County, where the Republican Women’s group and other hyper-conservatives are gunning to clear library shelves of books that touch on LGBTQ+ issues, race and sex ed, lest young eyes feast upon them.

Is there a new adult bookstore and novelty shop just off the interstate in Benton? One could be forgiven for assuming so if they caught a flash of the “X-RATED LIBRARY BOOKS” billboard. The ad, paid for by the Saline County Republicans, directs people to salinelibrary.com, where you can find a juicy list of all the books these poor Republican women have forced themselves to read so they could warn you about all the sexy stuff inside. Bless their hearts, I just know they hated doing that.

Advertisement

(Just five minutes ago the salinelibrary.com page disappeared for some reason, but if it’s not back up by the time you go looking, it’s archived here.)

Just today, for instance, some brave Saline County Republican sacrificed her purity to read and review “The V-Word,” a collection of stories about young women losing their virginity. Not appropriate for the 12-18 set, the website says. “The book promotes deviant behavior at very young ages. Minors should not have unrestricted access to this explicit book.”

Advertisement

Bravely, this reviewer of “The V-Word” (hint: it’s “vagina”) went through and pulled out the most titillating bits to show us just how terrible the book is. Here are a couple of screenshots, if you dare:

Saline County Republicans pulled out the juicy parts for us, read all about it at salinelibrary.com

Advertisement

Warning: Do NOT go to salinelibrary.com unless you want to read only the sexiest tidbits from these books, pulled out and lined up for quick and easy perusal.

First Amendment champions launched a counterattack to the piling on of Saline County librarians, and the money seems to be coming in quick and easy. One of the organizers to take the fight to the thought police is Dean MacDonald, a veteran of the Craighead County library wars. State Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Jonesboro) and his battalion of pearl clutchers managed to run off a library director, browbeat library staff and eventually defund the county library system, all because they were triggered by a Gay Pride display in the children’s section that featured a book about two penguin dads.

Advertisement

In the aftermath of the Craighead book banners’ victory, MacDonald and his fellow Young Democrats installed a series of Little Free Libraries, those tiny roadside sheds full of books free for the taking. Now, MacDonald is among those stepping up to make sure Saline County doesn’t suffer the same fate. He’s part of the effort to raise money to put up a rival billboard. It’s going gangbusters so far, MacDonald reports.

Advertisement

Tess Vrbin, a very fair and thorough reporter at the Arkansas Advocate (no paywall), has a story on this battle for Saline County hearts and minds today.

A group led by Saline County residents who oppose the relocation or removal of certain books from local libraries plans to rent a billboard in Benton to counter a new sign connected to Saline County Republicans that decries “X-rated library books.”

Scott Gray of the Saline County Republican Committee posted photos of the billboard, located at the Benton Walmart, on Facebook Saturday. Gray is the committee’s marketing chair and part of the group of Arkansans who have said minors should not have access to books with LGBTQ+ themes or “woke” content, as he told the state House Judiciary Committee in March.

The Saline County Library Alliance, a nonpartisan group opposing conservative efforts to challenge library content, responded to the billboard by starting a GoFundMe page on Sunday. The group set a goal of $3,500 for its own billboard “to promote the truth about our library,” according to the page.

As of Monday evening, the crowdfunding campaign had surpassed its goal, raising $3,820 with 109 donations. Extra funds will support increased billboard rental time or other outreach efforts by the Library Alliance, according to the GoFundMe page.

Bailey Morgan, the Library Alliance organizer who started the crowdfunding campaign, said the amount of support it received in a short period of time was “wild to see” and “kind of mind-blowing.”

The opposing billboard’s location is “up in the air” but will likely be somewhere along Interstate 30, as the Republicans’ billboard is, Morgan said.

The Saline County Republican Committee did not respond to requests for comment via phone or email Monday.

The recently erected billboard directs people to a website dedicated to exposing content those behind the site deem inappropriate for children.

The site includes a banner with the logos of the Saline County Republican Committee and the Saline County Republican Women.

Saline County is currently the testing ground for a new state law set to take effect later this year. Act 372 of 2023 will allow people to challenge library materials they consider “obscene” and create potential criminal liability for librarians who disseminate such materials to minors. Local elected officials will have the final say over whether a challenged book can stay on publicly available library shelves or must be moved to an area that minors cannot access, the law states.

In April, a majority of the Saline County Quorum Court voted to recommend that the library “proactively take steps” to relocate books so that children cannot access “sexual content or imagery.”

Gray was one of several citizens who spoke for the resolution, saying children must be protected from “indoctrination.” Morgan and several others spoke against it and called it a vehicle for censorship.

The books under fire are frequently about systemic racism and sex education, in addition to both fiction and nonfiction books by and about LGBTQ+ individuals.

Every library system in Arkansas has a policy in place to address challenges from the public, and those policies will have to be altered to comply with Act 372. The existing policies are rarely used throughout the state, and people who challenge books often want them to be removed rather than relocated.