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During the Jan. 18 Athens Regional Library System (ARLS) Board of Trustees meeting, representatives from the system’s five counties heard public comment against the creation of a book oversight committee.
The groups Mutual Aid Athens and Athens Pagan Pride shared messages on social media that Moms for Liberty would be in attendance to lobby for a committee of its members to have oversight on books in the local libraries.
Moms for Liberty (M4L) Oconee County Chapter Chair Julie Mauck said in an email to The Oconee Enterprise that the chapter had yet to reconvene in 2024 and that she never discussed asking the ARLS to create a committee of M4L members to have oversight on book selections.
“I believe others have mentioned that a parent book review committee would be a great idea, and I agree,” Mauck said. “I think some other communities have them as well.”
The ARLS serves Athens-Clarke, Franklin, Madison, Oconee and Oglethorpe counties. There were 16 speakers from Athens-Clarke, Madison and Oconee counties against the rumored creation of a book oversight committee. No speakers were in favor of a committee.
Oconee County resident Laura Rose said some people may be calling for a committee’s creation out of fear.
“As far as I know, and I could be wrong about this, no book, no idea, no opinion has ever killed anyone,” Rose said. “People kill people, not books, not ideas, not opinions.”
Rose said people should exercise their parental rights to decide what their children read.
Athens-Clarke County resident Glenn Leavell said he raised two children who are now in college with the support of the area’s libraries.
Leavell said public libraries have an important role in a democratic and free society by providing access to books, newspapers and more. He then cited the ARLS Collection Management Policy.
“The library system upholds the right of the individual to secure information, even though the content of that information may be controversial, unorthodox or unacceptable to others,” according to the ARLS policy.
Leavell said he believes everyone should expect to see themselves and those unlike them reflected in the library.
“This ability to discover and access a broad spectrum of ideas and representations…that aren’t exclusively our own, is an essential feature of our libraries,” Leavell said. “It’s a feature that will, if we take full advantage of it, both surprise and challenge us.”Athens-Clarke County resident and nearly 30-year library patron Lisa Donovan offered support for the ARLS policies, as well as the board and library staff.
“Restricting ideas does not prepare anyone…for life or the world,” said Oconee County resident Will Whatley, who is a retired military officer and father of three adult children. “From a perspective of where I sat, we needed people to have more divergent ideas, not less.”
Athens-Clarke County resident Rita Kelly said being scared of books reminded her of the regulation, banning and burning of books in Nazi Germany.
“Just because you have a private interest doesn’t mean it should impact all of us public citizens,” Kelly said.
In related news, the Georgians for Responsible Libraries (GAFRL)—a newly formed statewide organization “to protect children from the onslaught of sexually explicit, obscene and age-inappropriate books and materials in K-12 public school libraries and classrooms”—will hold a press conference at the State Capitol today at 11:30 a.m.
The keynote speaker is Jaco Booyens, an internationally known expert and activist in anti-sex trafficking. Some state legislators will also speak in favor of proposed legislation to regulate books in school libraries.
Senate Bill 390 would “prohibit taxpayer or privately donated funds from going to the American Library Association or any of its affiliates” and to “prohibit the acceptance of any bid or proposal made by the American Library Association
for a state contract.”
The bill states that the president of the American Library Association has declared herself to be a Marxist