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Dale County Commission delays budget vote after Ozark mayor calls to defund library

Commission Chairman Steve McKinnon said he does not anticipate a situation in which the library is not funded.

The Ozark Dale County Public Library is the latest battleground over LGBTQ books as Mayor Mark Blankenship has suggested defunding the library unless they are removed from the young adult section. (BRENDA SIMECHAK VIA FACEBOOK)

The Dale County Commission delayed a vote on a budget that includes funding for the Ozark Dale County Public Library today Tuesday just days after Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship called for the library to be defunded unless it moves all LGBTQ books out of the young adult section.

District 3 commissioner Adam Enfinger made the motion to table consideration of the budget to the commission’s meeting two weeks from Tuesday, to wait and see how the library board handles Blankenship’s informal request to move the books.

Enfinger has thus far not commented on whether he would consider defunding the library, but announced after the meeting that he has officially challenged two books through the library’s official review process, filing reconsideration forms similar to what citizens in Prattville have been filing at their library. This is the official channel for challenging books.

Although the commission has delayed its budget vote, Chairman Steve McKinnon told WDHN that it is unlikely the commission would defund the library.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any way that we are not going to fund the library,” McKinnon said. “I am not a voting member; I am the chairman. We don’t want to defund them. It’s a viable asset to the county used by a lot of people and kids.”

Enfinger is campaigning against McKinnon and has received much public support from Blankenship.

A majority of the Ozark City Council have made public announcements letting citizens know they have no intentions of defunding the library, effectively safeguarding the city’s portion of the funding. The library is funded by both the Ozark City Council and the Dale County Commission.

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It is still not clear exactly where each commissioner stands on funding the library, and even less clear whether public officials might be supportive of moving the books despite protecting library funding. 

Enfinger has challenged two books, “Only Mostly Devastated” and “The Mirror Season.”

Enfinger challenged “The Mirror Season” on the basis that the book “contains graphic depictions of sexual assaults, forced oral sex, group sexual activity and other graphic depictions of sexual activity.” According to the book’s synopsis, the book focuses on two teens who are sexually assaulted at the same party, and bond over the trauma. He says “Only Mostly Devastated” includes “references to bestiality, sexual contact between a school aged female and the female parent of another student and graphic depictions of female sexual organs.”

Blankenship’s blanket request covers all LGBTQ books in the young adult section, but one of the two books challenged by Enfinger is on the basis of heterosexual content. Based on the excerpts provided by Enfinger, the language in “Only Mostly Devastated” is fairly sparse. The reference to bestiality is a character stating “I’m not making out with any labradors, what kind of bestiality fetish do you think I’ve got?” The sexual contact between a school-aged female and the female parent of another student appears to be referring to an excerpt where one teen tells the other they “were screwing your mother the day you had your first lifetime channel straight ass kiss with Todd Ferguson” The “graphic depictions of female sexual organs” were the use on one page of the words “vagina,” “clit,” and “beaver.” This book is recommended by the publisher for 13- to 18-year-olds. 

“The Mirror Season” is challenged due to some brief explicit depiction of sexual assault. The assault is heterosexual. The book is recommended by the publisher for 13- to 18-year-olds.

“Constituents have provided me with book titles that are currently housed in the section of the library designated for 12-year-olds that they find questionable. I am doing my best to research these books as quickly as possible and these are the first two I have had the opportunity to look into,” Enfinger said. “To say I am appalled that this material is labeled as appropriate for 12- and 13-year-old children is an understatement. After reading this content, I don’t believe that anyone would think these are books for kids. It is time to move them and any other book with content like this to the adult section of the library.”

Blankenship shared Enfinger’s statement, saying these are just “two of many books” that presumably need to be moved from the young adult section, although one of the books would not fall under his blanket request to move LGBTQ books since the content in question is heterosexual. 

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He also shared a post by Post Oak Baptist Church pastor Keith Reynolds thanking the commission for postponing its vote on the budget until after the library meeting, stating that LGBTQ books and books of an adult nature should be moved to the adult section.

Reynolds isn’t the only pastor to weigh in on the discussion. A post by Ozark Baptist Church, presumably by pastor Eric Fuller, shared false information that 450 “LGBTQ advocates” were going to be bussed in for the library board meeting on Wednesday. The post was later deleted, and a retraction was issued, noting that the notion of bussing in advocates was bade on misinformation, but maintained the church’s stance on moving the books.

Meanwhile,  First United Methodist Church of Ozark Pastor Jason Thrower posted his opposition to defunding the library.

“I support the library 100 percent and would not support the defunding of the library,” Thrower said. “It is too important to all our citizens. Not everyone is going to agree on these issues, but the greater good is served by having a local library.”

The library board will host its special called meeting at 10 a.m. tomorrow in the Bay Meeting Room of the library.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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