An unknown group has retained legal counsel to compel the Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) to reveal its recently enacted list containing library books that may be inappropriate for children.
For months, residents in counties and municipalities across the state have raised concerns over their library's content, specifically sexually explicit and LGBTQ+ material meant for minors.
Residents and lawmakers, including Gov. Kay Ivey, have petitioned the APLS board to address the issue in several ways. In September, the board unanimously agreed to a policy proposed by APLS board member and Alabama GOP chair John Wahl that would allow residents to submit books for review.
The board initially said the list of challenged books would only be available to library employees as a reference guide, not to the general public. After APLS made the form available online, several residents objected to making the list private.
As a result, several unnamed plaintiffs tapped Bryan Taylor, a current candidate for the position of Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, to appeal APLS to make the records public.
Taylor told 1819 News he took the case amid his campaign because of his familiarity with Alabama's open records law and desire for more government transparency.
"This particular case is pretty straightforward," Taylor said. "The Open Records Act is something that I'm very familiar with. So, it's not something that's going to take a whole lot of research time. But we'll need to see whether or not [APLS] is going to comply with that act and respond to requests for the list of challenged books."
"I'm a believer in the rule of law, first and foremost. I think this is a very clear law. It's one that goes to the heart of keeping government accountable to the people. And this is an issue that really unites Alabama citizens, both the left and the right of the political spectrum, because everybody believes in public access and transparency to government records."
He continued, "The people that I represent believe that part of the part of filing those challenges is to make sure that the rest of the public is aware of the rest of the books they've found and why they're objectionable.
Taylor explained that a lawsuit typically follows a state agency denying a public records request. However, since APLS already stated that the list would only be for library employees, the unnamed plaintiffs sought him to pursue answers from APLS immediately. He further explained that he hopes to reach a speedy resolution without filing an official lawsuit.
"They've retained me to pursue this list, so hopefully, it can be done without a lawsuit. Hopefully, [APLS] will retract its statements. But if and when we need to file a lawsuit, the list of plaintiffs will be made available."
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