The Auburn City Council meets on every other Tuesday of each month at 141 N. Ross St. in Auburn.
BY HANNAH LESTER
The main item of concern at Auburn’s City Council meeting Tuesday night was brought up during citizens’ communication — a debate on children’s reading material at the Auburn Public Library.
“The library is no longer a safe place for children,” said community member Martha Shemp. “The books have flooded the shelves of the children’s wing; it’s all about sex, sex and more sex.”
Following this statement, Ward 6 Council Member Bob Parsons interrupted with a point of order.
“The person before us here is describing the library in an inappropriate way, it’s not a factual way that you’re describing the content of this library at all,” he said.
Shemp said she had reviewed the books herself.
“I have checked out more than 100 books in the last two months and they are about gender, sexuality, bi-sexuality, trans-sex, this, that and the other,” she said. “No, not every book in the children’s wing.”
Shemp said that the librarians were grooming children.
“That’s an inflammatory statement,” Parsons said.
One resident, Sue Ann Balch, said that the books have pornography and she reported them to the Auburn Police Division to be investigated.
Marsha Boosinger, chair of the Auburn Public Library Advisory Board, said that the library over the past several months has received numerous letters of support, with concern from residents over those who want to remove the LGBTQIA+ books.
Karen Herring, a board member for the library, spoke before the criticism began and expressed why she joined the library board and how the experience has been.
“We learned that residents wanted additional branch locations, meeting and study spaces, expanded collections and increased program offerings relevant and appealing to a diverse population, to quote,” she said. “Survey respondents most frequently called for additions to the collection, more materials, varied formats and greater diversity in both content and audience appeal.”
City Attorney Paul Clark spoke to the situation following the closing of citizen comments.
“As this council is aware, when the city council created the Auburn Public Library, it vested the library board with the authority to manage the collection of the library,” he said. “That has been accomplished through not only the library board themselves but through employees of the city, including the Library Director Tyler Whitten, who is with us tonight.
“If any citizen of the city of Auburn, who has a library card, believes that there is any inappropriate material within the library, there is an established policy and procedure by which that person can request review of the material within the collection. That is a process that has been in place for many, many years.”
Parsons later expressed that if his comments were hasty, he apologized but said, “I found the [comments of Shemp] to be outrageous and inappropriate and unnecessarily demonizing members of our community.”
Ward 8 Council Member Tommy Dawson said he wants more information given that some people were expressing sexually explicit material was available to children and others were saying it wasn’t.
“If sexually explicit material is over there or a kid can just walk up to it and take it, I don’t care if it’s LGBTQ or whatever, that’s not right,” he said.
Dawson also defended the right of residents to speak their minds on the issue, whether he or anyone else agrees with it or not.
Ward 1 Council Member Connie Fitch-Taylor said that there may need to be changes to state law in regards to what counts as child pornography.
Clark said that a few books have been moved over the last 60 days to a higher classification.
– The council approved a restaurant retail liquor ABC license for LYB LLC, doing business as Don Julio’s Mexican Grill.
– The council approved a contract with CDG Inc. for coring and pavement evaluation services for the FY23 Streets Resurfacing Project for over $32,400.
– The council authorized a grant agreement with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for over $45,100.
– The council authorized traffic calming devices for Fairway Drive.
– The council approved a conditional use approval request for a performance residential development at 152 Bragg Ave.
– The council approved a conditional use approval request for institutional and office use at 945 N. Donahue Drive.