A few months ago, we reported that Saline County looked like it would become the next battleground in the ongoing war over book bans. Unsurprisingly, things are not going well.
Where we started
First, a quick refresher. Sen. Dan Sullivan sponsored SB81, a bill that created a criminal offense for librarians who provided “obscene” material to minors. Obscenity is ill-defined, naturally, and the law completely bypasses parents’ right to make decisions on what kind of content they think appropriate for their own kids. Like we said in our previous story, “parental empowerment for me, but not for thee.”
Governor Sanders signed the bill into law, which will go into effect this August. Saline County, though, decided they’d get a jump on things.
Where we are
The Saline County quorum court, the county’s governing body, passed a non-binding resolution at their April 17 meeting recommending that the library begin the process of moving materials that contain “sexual content or imagery” — not defined, of course, so the intent is clearly to catch pro-LBGTQ+ books in the ban — into a restricted space within the library.
Library Director Patty Hector stood up for the First Amendment, for kids, and for parents. She declined to follow the court’s resolution for two reasons: first, because the library was already in compliance with current state law; and second, because the resolution actually goes further than Book Ban Dan’s law. It allows any person to object to material, bypassing the law’s provision for a review process.
The Saline County Republican Women lost their minds at someone standing up for actual parents’ rights. They added a billboard on I-30 stating “Director Hector Must Go” with a link to a website purporting to show all the horrible material available to minors in the library.
In another quorum court meeting on May 23, members delayed voting on an ordinance dealing with Director Hector and book relocation, but only after extensive and spirited public comment. That vote will happen today, on Juneteenth, because of course it will.
Where we’re going
The good Arkansans of Saline County decided they wouldn’t go down without a fight. A group called the Saline County Library Alliance crowdfunded enough money to rent not just one, but two billboards supporting Director Hector and the libraries.
The group has also held meetings with County Judge Matt Brumley, which went about as well as we’d expect. Judge Brumley has stated he’s lost confidence in Director Hector and is using the vote today to give himself the power to fire her. He’s ignoring calls to hold public debate, instead trying to ram through this ordinance as soon as possible and refusing to let cooler heads prevail.
This fight is just beginning for Saline County. The ordinance will unfortunately probably pass, but legal challenges will undoubtedly swiftly follow. We’ll provide updates when we can.
Book bans are unconstitutional, as a number of other libraries argued in federal court. They’re also anti-education, anti-democracy, anti-child, and anti-parent. They don’t protect kids, and they take away rights of both parents and children. They are un-American and beneath the dignity of Arkansans.
The Saline County Library Alliance will protest outside the Saline County courthouse today starting at 5PM.