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More Madison City Council members side with library

Two council members made clear Monday night that they have no interest in pulling funding.

Madison Public Library
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A group of people has been consistently speaking out at Madison City Council meetings asking the council to withhold funding to the Huntsville Madison County Public Library system if it does not change its policies.

Two council members made clear Monday night that they have no interest in pulling funding.

“I will say pretty much unequivocally: I will never vote for cutting funding from the police department, Madison Fire and Rescue, public works or the library,” said District 1 Councilor Maura Wroblewski. “I will never support that.”

Wroblewski also said the council isn’t the body to decide where books are shelved in the library, and referenced the process available at the library for patrons to report concerns about books.

The council welcomed Madison Public Library interim executive director Connie Chow to discuss the library’s “statement of concern” process that allows patrons to explain what concern they have about the book and what action should be taken.

Resident Tonia Stulting argued during her public comment section that the process to file a s statement of concern is onerous and doesn’t allow a single patron to quickly submit multiple forms. She also said the process lacks oversight because the committee reviewing the concern is made up of librarians who put the book on the shelf to begin with.

District 6 Councilor Karen Denzine spoke about the new state aid requirements soon to take effect from the Alabama Public Library Service, and said it is the library’s responsibility to conform to those requirements, not the council’s.

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District 3 Councilor Teddy Powell said last month that his vote “will always be for funding the library.”

“There are two things we do: we appoint someone to the board, and we fund or not fund the library,” Powell said. “And I don’t think either group is for not funding the library—or I hope not. And if you are that’s fine, but I’m telling you, my vote is always going to be to fund the library.”

District 2 Councilor Connie Spears at the previous meeting said checking a book out at a library and reading a book at a public forum are different things.

“You can check out a book at a library and nobody else has to know what’s in that book; but when you stand at that podium and read what’s in that book in a public forum, you’ve made it so that nobody else in this room has a choice as to what is being said,” Spears said. “… I wish that people would be more considerate of others in the room when they team up and grandstand at the podium.”

District 6 Councilor Greg Shaw said his daughter checked out a “horrific book” when she was in seventh grade and he sat down with the librarians, who didn’t know the book was there, and found a resolution. He encouraged speakers to do the same if they have issues with books in the library through the statement of concern process.

“If you want to find a resolution, go find a resolution; there’s a way to do that…” Shaw said. “To come up here and shock factor people every week doesn’t solve problems.”

District 7 Councilor John Seifert said there were books in the library he wouldn’t want his 15-year-old son to read, but said he supervises his son’s reading materials and that the freedom to read should be respected.

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

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