A billboard battle is brewing in Saline County between library supporters, opponents

GOP-connected billboard targets “X-rated” library books

By: - May 15, 2023 8:36 pm

Cars pass a billboard on Interstate 30 in Benton that warns of “X-rated library books” in Saline County libraries. (Tess Vrbin/Arkansas Advocate.

A group led by Saline County residents who oppose the relocation or removal of certain books from local libraries plans to rent a billboard in Benton to counter a new sign connected to Saline County Republicans that decries “X-rated library books.”

Scott Gray of the Saline County Republican Committee posted photos of the billboard, located at the Benton Walmart, on Facebook Saturday. Gray is the committee’s marketing chair and part of the group of Arkansans who have said minors should not have access to books with LGBTQ+ themes or “woke” content, as he told the state House Judiciary Committee in March.

The Saline County Library Alliance, a nonpartisan group opposing conservative efforts to challenge library content, responded to the billboard by starting a GoFundMe page on Sunday. The group set a goal of $3,500 for its own billboard “to promote the truth about our library,” according to the page.

As of Monday evening, the crowdfunding campaign had surpassed its goal, raising $3,820 with 109 donations. Extra funds will support increased billboard rental time or other outreach efforts by the Library Alliance, according to the GoFundMe page.

Bailey Morgan, the Library Alliance organizer who started the crowdfunding campaign, said the amount of support it received in a short period of time was “wild to see” and “kind of mind-blowing.”


The opposing billboard’s location is “up in the air” but will likely be somewhere along Interstate 30, as the Republicans’ billboard is, Morgan said.

The Saline County Republican Committee did not respond to requests for comment via phone or email Monday.

The recently erected billboard directs people to a website dedicated to exposing content those behind the site deem inappropriate for children.

The site includes a banner with the logos of the Saline County Republican Committee and the Saline County Republican Women.

Saline County is currently the testing ground for a new state law set to take effect later this year. Act 372 of 2023 will allow people to challenge library materials they consider “obscene” and create potential criminal liability for librarians who disseminate such materials to minors. Local elected officials will have the final say over whether a challenged book can stay on publicly available library shelves or must be moved to an area that minors cannot access, the law states.

In April, a majority of the Saline County Quorum Court voted to recommend that the library “proactively take steps” to relocate books so that children cannot access “sexual content or imagery.”

Arkansas librarians brace for impact of law making them liable for “obscene” content

Gray was one of several citizens who spoke for the resolution, saying children must be protected from “indoctrination.” Morgan and several others spoke against it and called it a vehicle for censorship.

The books under fire are frequently about systemic racism and sex education, in addition to both fiction and nonfiction books by and about LGBTQ+ individuals.

Every library system in Arkansas has a policy in place to address challenges from the public, and those policies will have to be altered to comply with Act 372. The existing policies are rarely used throughout the state, and people who challenge books often want them to be removed rather than relocated. 

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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.