Three books challenged at the Cullman County Library will stay where they are after a decision from the library board Thursday evening.
Two of the books challenged were easy reading books “Prince and Knight” by Daniel Haack and “Heather has two mommies” by Leslea Newman. “Prince and Knight” follows a knight looking for a bride, who decides to marry a knight instead. “Heather has two mommies” depicts a young girl’s life who happens to have two mothers. The other is “Lily and Dunkin” by Donna Gephart. It features the story of Lily, who is seeking hormone blockers to prevent puberty as a transgender girl.
All three books were challenged by resident Shirley Arnett.
According to The Cullman Times, Arnett took issue with the “alternate sexualities” and gender ideologies in the books, and also expressed disapproval of a portion of profits from “Prince and Knight” being donated to LGBTQ organizations.
“I assure you my commitment is only to protect our children,” Arnett said. “I persevere and am here to ensure that our taxpayer-funded public library has clear guidelines in place to protect our children from the pornography creeping into our Alabama libraries.”
None of the challenged books have pornographic content.
The library board voted unanimously to keep the books in their current locations, minus the vote from newly elected board member Jill Meggs, who abstained since she had not had the opportunity to review the books. The Cullman County Commission voted unanimously to install Meggs on Tuesday.
“I think one common ground that every person in this room has is that we all feel very strongly that literacy is super important. It is the thing that bonds each person here together. We believe that education and reading is the key to the future for children specifically,” Meggs said. “I am extremely conservative, I’ll put that out to the world. I’m not ashamed of that, but my personal opinion is that it is a parent’s right to choose.”
Commissioner Garry Marchman, who appointed Meggs, is on the record stating that he’d rather not have any LGBTQ content in the library.
“They’re trying to politicize what we’re doing at the library a little bit, and that’s the wrong thing,” Marchman told the Cullman Tribune after all county commissioners signed onto a petition by Clean Up Alabama. “That shouldn’t be politicized. I don’t believe we should have a single book in that library, period, that covers anything to deal with LGBT, and I know that’s a strong statement. I’m not going to say it’s OK and that we’re censoring; you can take your censorship somewhere else. If you think we’re censoring, then let’s vote on it and see if we’re censoring.”
Arnett also noted she looked for a list of 100 books in the Cullman library that she would take issue with, but had not been able to find those books in the library.
Cullman resident Krysti Shallenberger, head of Cullman County’s chapter of Read Freely Alabama, said this is an unprecedented attack on the library.
“In the decades I have spent living here in Cullman, Alabama, never have I seen such a concerted effort to remove books targeting a specific community despite the baggage this town has carried from its past,” Shallenberger said.
She also read an email she said she received from another Cullman resident who said her children have faced discrimination over having two moms.
“Relocating these books from the children’s section send a vicious message to this family,” Shallenberger said. “It says that a public library does not have room to represent them based on the beliefs of a very small minority in a community of tens of thousands. Do they not have the same constitutional rights as we do and do they not pay the same taxes?”
Meggs and board member Rusty Turner said there may be a middle ground in which the library comes up with a system for labeling books so parents can be better aware of what content may be inside.