Craighead County to Vote on Reducing Millage for Library that Features Sexually Explicit Children’s Books

This November voters in Craighead County will decide whether to reduce the millage for the public library in Jonesboro.

The Jonesboro public library has been at the center of multiple controversies for nearly a year and a half — such as inappropriately hosting an LGBT Pride display in its children’s library, placing books with sexually-explicit images in its children’s section, and failing to adopt a policy that separates sexual material from children’s content.

Some of these books — such as Gender Queer and l8tr, g8tr — contain explicit images or descriptions of teens engaged in sexual acts.

Library officials have stood by their decision to share sexual material with children — even posting on Facebook that it isn’t the library’s responsibility to protect kids from obscenity.

The Jonesboro Sun reports that this November voters in Craighead County will decide whether or not to reduce the library’s millage from two mills to one mill.

Under Amendment 30 and Amendment 38 to the Arkansas Constitution, voters can circulate petitions to place a measure on the local ballot assessing a form of property tax — or “millage” — to provide funding for city and county libraries.

In Jonesboro’s case, property taxes for the library are currently two mills — or 0.002%. The ballot proposal would reduce the rate to one mill — or 0.001%.

Library officials in Jonesboro have said the tax cut would “devastate” the library and could force it to close, but news reports indicate the library has enjoyed a budget surplus of more than a million dollars for the past three years, and documents from the Craighead County Clerk’s Office show the millage tax provided more than $3.1 million in revenue for the library last year.

Even if the library were not spending public tax dollars on obscene children’s books, reducing the millage in Craighead County arguably would help balance the library’s budget and provide relief for taxpayers.

It’s ridiculous to think that a library isn’t to blame if a child finds pornographic or obscene material in the library’s children’s section.

Public libraries are supposed to be for everyone.

Families should be able to take their children to the library without worrying what their children might see.

Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize graphic novels that depict explicit images of minors engaged in sexual acts.

Unfortunately, many libraries in Arkansas don’t seem to understand that.

Articles appearing on this website are written with the aid of Family Council’s researchers and writers.

Updated: Jonesboro Public Library Doubles Down on Exposing Children to Pornography and Obscenity

Updated 3/2/2022 at 11:00 AM: As of Wednesday morning, it appears Jonesboro Public Library’s Facebook post has been taken down. Original blog post is below:

Above: A screenshot of the Jonesboro Public Library’s statement implying that it is the parents’ fault if children encounter pornographic or obscene material at the library.

On Monday the Jonesboro Public Library made a statement on Facebook asserting that the library isn’t responsible if children see pornographic or obscene material on its shelves.

Last year the library made headlines after a lawsuit revealed that extremely graphic material was on the shelves in the children’s section of the Jonesboro library. Some of the material was so explicit that it could not be shown on television, and Family Council did not feel comfortable sharing it on the Internet.

Since then, the library’s board has failed to adopt policies that would move explicit material out of the children’s section of the library.

Under Arkansas law, it is a crime to distribute obscene material — that is, material that depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive manner and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Arkansas law restricts pornographic material as well, and it is generally against the law to sell or loan pornography to minors.

However, Arkansas law contains exceptions for obscene material distributed by a school, museum, or public library. It isn’t against state law for one of these institutions to distribute obscene material — even to children.

Obviously, that is a loophole in state law that many people find troubling.

The Jonesboro Public Library’s Facebook post from Monday quotes the American Library Association on censorship and pornography, writing,

What About Protecting Children From Pornography, Whether Or Not It Is Legally Obscene?
The primary responsibility for rearing children rests with parents. If parents want to keep certain ideas or forms of expression away from their children, they must assume the responsibility for shielding those children. Governmental institutions cannot be expected to usurp or interfere with parental obligations and responsibilities when it comes to deciding what a child may read or view.

The statement tries to use parental rights and responsibility to justify putting obscene material where kids may find it in a public library.

The Jonesboro Public Library basically is saying that if kids see obscene material on the shelves in the children’s section, it’s the parents’ fault — not the library’s.

Despite all of this, communities still can take steps to remove obscene or objectionable material from their local libraries.

Library boards and librarians have leeway to establish selection criteria and make decisions about the kinds of material available on the library’s shelves. That is something that many people have asked the library board in Jonesboro to do.

Library patrons generally can use a Material Reconsideration Form to ask libraries to remove obscene or inappropriate material.

And voters can call on their elected officials to enact laws protecting children from obscene and pornographic material in public libraries.

It’s ridiculous to think that the library isn’t in any way to blame if a child finds pornographic or obscene material in the library’s children’s section. Unfortunately, the Jonesboro Public Library appears to be saying exactly that.

Articles appearing on this website are written with the aid of Family Council’s researchers and writers.

Library Board In Jonesboro Fails to Adopt Policy Protecting Kids From Graphic Sexual Material

On Monday the Craighead County Public Library Board rejected a proposal to move books containing graphic sexual content out of the children’s section of the Jonesboro Public Library, according to KAIT News.

This is at least the second time that the library board has failed to adopt a policy addressing sexual content at the library.

You may remember last year the library made headlines after a lawsuit revealed that extremely graphic material was on the shelves in the children’s section of the Jonesboro library.

The proposed policy that the library board rejected on Monday said,

“The purpose of this policy is to protect minors from unintentional exposure to sexually graphic/explicit material in the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library and to assist parents who wish to allow children to browse through books in areas designated for minors by ensuring some areas of the library are free of detailed descriptions of sexual encounters. 

“Any material in the library placed in areas that are designated for use particularly by minors shall not contain text describing or images depicting sexually graphic/explicit acts.”

This proposal wouldn’t have eliminated sexually-explicit material at the library altogether, but it at least would have moved sexually-explicit material out of the children’s area.

Arkansas’ law against obscenity contains an exception for schools, museums, and public libraries, and to our knowledge libraries in Arkansas have never faced any consequences for loaning pornographic material to children.

Libraries have the ability to remove pornographic, obscene, or inappropriate material from their shelves — especially in areas of the library where there might be children. Unfortunately, the public library in Jonesboro is not taking steps to do that.