Starting February 1, state residents will be able to voice their concerns with the Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) as it considers implementing Gov. Kay Ivey’s proposed changes to administrative rules.
In September 2023, Ivey sent a letter to APLS Director Nancy Pack demanding answers in the growing controversy surrounding Alabama libraries and sexually explicit books and APLS's connection with the ALA.
Pack later responded to Ivey's letter, attempting to give answers to the questions along with a self-authored defense of the ALA.
Ivey responded by offering a series of policy recommendations in October 2023, including suggested changes to the APLS administrative code.
The recommendation included making state funding contingent on state libraries’ policies regarding parental supervision and sexually explicit book location.
"[L]ibraries must not be a place to expose children to inappropriate content without the knowledge and consent of their parents," Ivey said. "Libraries should listen to parents when it comes to what content is openly available in children's sections of libraries."
The APLS Board approved the rule change on Nov. 16, 2023. The board stated on Tuesday that the official policy recommendations would be published on January 30, from which point members of the public have 90 days to enter comment on the issue.
State Rep. Susan DuBose (R-Hoover) attended Tuesday’s meeting and expressed concern that the APLS would not approve the governor’s recommendations before the state’s legislature concluded for the year. Pack said they received the quickest time slot available through the state’s legislative services agency.
Meanwhile, the Alabama Library Association (ALLA), the state chapter of the American Library Association, plans to submit a counterproposal to Ivey’s plan, one crafted by a “dedicated team of Alabama public librarians.”
The ALLA also said it would hold town halls to encourage local librarians to submit their counteroffer to the APLS board during the public comment period.
The main distinction between the ALLA’s policy and Ivey’s is a section that contradicts the governor’s recommendation for librarians to determine the scope and location of possibly sexually explicit library books.
It reads: “Per the 1975 Code of Alabama, Section 11-90-3, the public library must be easily available to all citizens of its county or municipality; and it cannot deny service to anyone on the basis of age, race, sex or creed. For any minor in the public library, the parent/guardian retains the ultimate authority to determine what materials their child may or may not access. The library cannot act in loco parentis [in place of the parents].”
“If the governor's proposed code changes are incorporated by the APLS Executive Council, Alabama public library boards will be required to create policies on unsupervised minors, library displays, and material location and/or reconsideration procedure,” ALLA said. “In the counterproposal, the Alabama Library Association adheres to the Alabama code requiring public libraries to be 'easily available' to 'all citizens' regardless of age. The counterproposal clarifies that public librarians cannot stand in loco parentis to determine the suitability of materials for a minor child.”
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