Strong opinions on ‘questionable’ books dominate library board

The crowd was much smaller at the May 11 meeting of the Anderson County Library Board at Norris Library than at other recent meetings.

However, as at recent meetings, strong feelings were expressed about “questionable” library books.

Jack Mansfield, who had been very vocal at previous library board meetings, reasserted his claim that the librarians were in violation of the law when they checked out questionable books to minors.

“If you do not restrict books you are putting your staff in jeopardy,” he asserted.

He went on to predict that if that practice continued, a librarian would be arrested.

At that remark, another member of the crowd said she felt threatened and left.

“We are trying to make policy,” said board member Jess Anne Cole, a retired principal. “We have to go down the middle without threatening.”

Another board member, Tommy Mariner, said that more than 65-percent of the county’s population is in favor of current library practices.

He said the opposition comes from a vocal minority, and that parents could restrict what books their children check out.

“It’s a hot button issue, but it is not a majority,” he said.

Mansfield countered that it was the majority who disagreed with current library policy.

“It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue,” he said. “It’s what’s good for our children.”

Nathan Mullins said he was in favor of restricting some books from children and he was willing to work with the library board. He went on to say, “We do not advocate threats and retribution.”

One speaker said it was wrong to say that people who objected to questionable books were Christians and those who accepted questionable books were not Christians.

Another speaker said that Anderson County is in the Bible Belt and its conservative community standards set the bar.

“I am concerned about what is happening in our libraries,” said Commissioner Anthony Allen, who restated his often-expressed opinion that questionable books should not be in the library at all.

He said that if the library has to restrict books, maybe they should not be in the library, period.

Another speaker said that children are gullible and should be protected until they can make wiser decisions. The issue should not be thought of in terms of pornography or what is legal, but what is safe for our children.

After one speaker compared accepting the LGBT community with accepting interracial marriage, Allen, who is Black, spoke again.

He said he resented the comparison. He said God make him Black and there was nothing wrong with that. He said that LGBT actions were behaviors people chose to do.

Someone else suggested that the same standards used to rate motion pictures should be applied to library books.

Board Chairman Joshua Anderson announced that Anderson County Sheriff Russell Barker had not yet turned in his complaint against two library books.

He said that when the complaint is turned in the board, would appoint a subcommittee to act on it.

He also said that Jay Yaeger, the county’s law director, is working on a policy for the handling of questionable books.