Religious censorship of Little Free Libraries in Arkansas

Jennifer Meeks, wife of Arkansas Sate Rep Stephen Meeks, posted a “confession” on Facebook. It went viral and proved to be a tad embarrassing for her. She has since then deleted it and ducked. However, the internet is forever, and so here is a screen-grab of it …

Just in case that font is a tad fuzzy or too small, here is what she says …

I have been swapping out books in little free libraries for awhile. I have seen good books, terrible books, toiletries, and needles (yes, needles).

Recently I have been picking up free Bibles at flea markets and thrift stores. Sometimes I find good devotion books or kids’ Bible stories at a good price to add. Or just great books, and a gospel tract is a nice idea too.

There’s an app (Little Free Library) to find these boxes. Not all of them are registered because there’s a $40 fee to do that. There’s a couple in Greenbrier, several in Conway, and a bunch in Little Rock. They’re all over there [sic] United States. This is an opportunity to be salt and light in our communities.

From what I have seen, a lot of these books and other things don’t align with our Christian values. Today I saw a bunch of Pride stuff in one. There’s a group of leftists, especially in Conway, who are very active in keeping little libraries well stocked. They’re very active in other areas too. But I shouldn’t go there.

This is something the silent majority can do. That doesn’t mean we have to stay silent, but this is pretty easy.

She is doing what?

So basically she explains that she goes around town hunting for and then “sanitising” Little Free Libraries by extracting any books she does not approve of and replaces them with religious junk that she picks up cheap from flea markets.

The reason she posted this was not to highlight what she was doing, but to also encourage other religious fanatics to do the same.

What is Little Free Library?

The idea is, I would hope, obvious. What you have is a small neighbourhood book exchange. It was started by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin back in 2009 and has since then rapidly blossomed into more than 150,000 registered book exchanges scattered across 115 countries. Literally millions of books are now being swapped via these each year.

If you go here, you can see if there are any near you (I have 3 near me).

It’s such a brilliant idea. We all have books that simply sit on shelves gathering dust, so why not leverage that and start swapping them with neighbours.

Setting one up is dead easy. Here is quick introduction …

You can find lots more information on

Meanwhile back in Arkansas

If your reaction to Mrs Meeks leveraging Little Free Libraries as her very own personal mission field is “WTF!” or similar, they yes, that does indeed nail it.

You are not alone because quite a few reacted in a very similar manner.

The local press took an interest …

They flag up one item in her Facebook posting …

Notice the photo of the little free library at the bottom left. It’s the one outside St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway. The church is known for such progressive stances as offering books about LGBQT youths in its library after the Conway School Board culled school library collections last year.

They perhaps explains her “I saw a bunch of pride stuff in one“. What she fails to mention is that it is Christians, the far more loving kind who have basic empathy, decency, and social responsibility who run that one.

That same story also quotes the Faulkner County Coalition for Social Justice …

“Keep removing them, Jennifer. We won’t stop. We’ve received $1,000+ to supply our community with food, toiletries, reproductive care items, and naloxone. These materials are saving lives. The lives of queer kids who aren’t out to their parents, to the teen that needs Plan B to avoid having a forced pregnancy, to the good neighbor preventing an overdose,”

That explains the reference in Mrs Meek’s original FB posting to finding toiletries and needles.

Are the comments under the Arkansas Times article all supporting Mrs Meeks?

Nope, they are instead a wonder to behold, and truly do inspire the thought that there are plenty of decent people out there with tons of empathy. Absolutely nobody supported her.

Well OK, one person came to her defence, but not via a comment under that article. Her husband is quoted in a follow-on article on Aug 8. There he claimed …

“She’s not removing books that she disagrees with and does not advocate … that anybody else do that,” Meeks, a Republican from Greenbrier, said.

Meeks said his wife’s Facebook post was misconstrued by “a leftist, activist group” and resulted in “a complete lie” that’s now “going all over Facebook.”

Meeks said his wife has not been taking LGBTQ Pride material and “is not advocating that anybody take any of the Pride material unless they want to” and then “not for nefarious reasons.”

Fact Check: It was Mrs Meeks herself who promoted what she was doing on FB. She opened that posting with the words “I have been swapping out books in little free libraries” … and goes on to advocate that “This is something the silent majority can do

So yes, he did the Trump thing of looking you in the eye and lied.

Least you have any doubts, let’s make this crystal clear. In her very own words on FB, within the comments section under her original posting she very clearly says “I have taken out a bad one and left a good one in its place“. She might try and hid that now by removing the posting, and her husband might indeed attempt a bit of gaslighting … but no, there is no covering it up with lies …

OK, one more gem of a quote via Mr Meeks. He also claimed within that second article “we want to give people more choice“. Er … the word is spelt “less”, they are literally striving to give people less choice via a book cull.

Meanwhile, yes, this is the very same Rep Meeks who not too long ago tried to get two sex educations books for teens banned from a public library, despite never actually reading them to see what they actually said. He also supported SB81, a bill that if passed would expose librarians to obscenity charges for checking out books that local elected officials considered obscene. He lied when giving testimony about all of that then as well by claiming that 5-year-olds could get those sex education books. Fact Check: Not only are the books restricted to just the teen section, but the Faulkner County Library, like most libraries, requires children younger than 6 to be supervised at all times, and for children 6-10 to have a parent or guardian in the building.

So yes, apparently culling books is very much a Meeks family endeavour.

Let’s celebrate Todd’s legacy

Todd Bol, who started the Little Free Library movement, was a teacher. As a rather stark contract to the Meeks family who strive to reduce the flow of information, he wanted to greatly increase it. For his very first little library in 2009 he used wood from his old garage door to make his library on a stick. That was the birth of a truly inspirational idea, it just took off and spread.

He sadly passed away of pancreatic cancer in 2018 at the age of 62, but will be remembered as a guy who inspired a grassroots global movement that made a real difference by inspiring readers and greatly expanded book access.

He leaves behind …

  • 150,000+ libraries
  • in 120 countries
  • where 300 million books have been shared.

150,000 is a wonderful legacy, even Carnegie only managed to establish 2,509 of his libraries. Well OK, the Carnegie story is also inspirational as well, but that’s a story for another day.

The written word is an amazingly powerful transformational concept, it enabled our stories, our thoughts, and our insights to travel far and wide and live on long after we are gone.

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