MONTGOMERY — At the board meeting for the Alabama Public Library Service (APLS), board members criticized lawmakers and Gov. Kay Ivey for suggesting cutting funding to libraries that fail to adopt sensible policies regarding sexually explicit books made available to minors.
The APLS board met on Thursday to deliberate on several issues but spent most of the time discussing the ongoing controversy surrounding books containing sexually explicit materials or books that have certain ideologies available or targeted towards children.
For months, residents and lawmakers have attended APLS board meetings to hear and express concern over the inclusion of sexually explicit books.
In one September meeting, Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle) sent official letters from their office to the board. Both letters expressed concern over the books' inclusion and suggested legislative intervention if the issues weren't addressed.
Additionally, Gov. Kay Ivey engaged in a public back-and-forth with APLS director Nancy Pack about how the board could address the issues. In one of her letters, Ivey suggested that state aid for local libraries be contingent on "the adoption of sensible policies."
During Thursday's meeting, the board discussed state funding allocation when District 6 board member Virginia Doyle began criticizing Ivey and other lawmakers' suggestion that funding be contingent on policies regarding the ongoing controversy.
"I don't know how, when, where or who got to the state legislature and the governor's office," Doyle said. "And to have them threaten to take our budget away from us because of all this controversy is just wrong."
She continued, "To take a $1.31 from them per capita is just… Considering the money they spend and what they do. They probably go to a flight show in Paris and spend more money than most of them [libraries] get in a year's time. I mean, It's ridiculous."
Doyle said that librarians should be aware that any funding cuts would ultimately be on the heads of lawmakers, not APLS.
"If they want to cut the money for the libraries that we distribute on a per capita basis, it won't hurt me, and it won't hurt you. But they're going to go home and they're going to face the people it does hurt because it affects every library in this state. And they're the ones that's going to suffer. It won't be us not giving them money. It will be the legislature that votes to not give them the money."
Doyle said she had been personally "threatened" by an unnamed legislator to cut library funding and that Ivey and other lawmakers had not tried to meet with anyone on the board.
"And whoever got that message to them, that they could threaten our budget and get us to act and do certain things, they would not give Dr. Pack a meeting with the governor's office," Doyle said. "There's not anybody [that has] called a member on this board to have a meeting."
Pack quickly chimed in following Doyle's remarks, saying "they" had undermined the professional acumen of librarians and herself personally.
"They have degraded the professional librarians," Pack said. "We are the ones that are trained to do library services. We are the ones who work hard in the field. And my degree has been degraded down to that of nothing. They have no respect for the degree I received nor for any other public librarian in this state. And, to me, that is awful. They degraded the professionalism and have cut my professional abilities down to nothing and every other librarian, and it's going to be very hard for us to recruit staff because Alabama feels that way."
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