Most observers expected the Alabama Public Library Service to formally disaffiliate from the controversial American Library Association, last week. In fact, Gov. Kay Ivey called for the state’s libraries to disaffiliate from the national organization. And, last month, Director Nancy Pack acquiesced to the governor.
However, last Thursday, the public libraries postponed the vote to disaffiliate from the ALA.
The ALA is a 150-year-old librarian professional development organization that has come under fire from conservative policymakers and activists throughout the state who say the association’s values are inconsistent with Alabama’s values.
“Rather than supporting Alabama families, out-of-state library groups like the American Library Association appear to be making the situation worse,” Ivey wrote.
“The ALA’s ‘Library Bill of Rights’ – which the Alabama Public Library Service has adopted as its own – says that a person’s library use should not be abridged because of ‘age.’ Not to be misunderstood, the ALA’s website regarding youth access to library resources clarifies that ‘like adults, children and teens have the right to find the information they choose,’ so libraries must not ‘discriminate’ based on ‘age.’”
Conservative groups, including Eagle Forum and Moms for Liberty, have attacked the ALA for its insistence that libraries purchase controversial books that promote the LGBTQ+ agenda — many of them targeting children.
The ALA has also been accused of “Marxism” and open hostility to religion. It’s also a principle of the ALA that parents have no right to review the records of books, movies, and periodicals that their child checks out. Parents groups argue this interferes with their rights to parent their child.
“The question here is – should taxpayer funding be used to buy books and put them in the children’s section with material that contains sexually explicit material that is definitely inappropriate for children to be viewing?” Alabama Republican Party Chairman and library board member John Wahl told Yellowhammer News’ Yaffee recently.
“Literally the head of the American Library Association is an open Marxist who has said she wants to turn libraries, our local libraries, into places of queerness and Marxism instead of democracy. For me that’s incredibly concerning. Marxism goes directly against everything that America stands for.”
Instead of pulling out of the ALA, as was expected, the public libraries voted to study how pulling out of the ALA would impact them. The vote won’t come until March at the earliest.
Liberal groups claim that pulling out of the ALA would take away training resources away from the local libraries. They also argue that conservative groups are attempting to censor the libraries.
Conservative groups have recently found objectionable books, including some that were sexually explicit, at libraries in children’s sections – including the Foley, Ozark, and Prattville public libraries.
“Parents should be confident that the materials available in children’s sections are, in fact, suitable for children,” Ivey wrote to Pack. “And children should have the freedom to wander freely in a children’s section without being exposed to harmful materials.”
“We do have a duty as a culture, but especially of us who are on the state library board, we have a duty to protect our children and we need to be honest about it,” Wahl said. “There is inappropriate stuff in our libraries. There are people who want to stick their heads in the sand and say there’s not, but there is inappropriate material.”
A former librarian told Yellowhammer News that the only way inappropriate books get into a library is if the librarian makes the decision to add those books to the library.
“Managing their collection” is a large part of what librarians do, the former librarian said. If there are books in the library discussing children transitioning to another gender or exploring sexual feelings for persons of the same gender or promoting Marxism or claiming that America was founded on racism and oppression or promoting atheism, then someone at that library made a decision to add those books to that library’s collection, the former librarian argues.
And if those books are prominently displayed in the children’s section of the library — that is also a conscious decision made by local librarians.
Legislation could be introduced in the 2024 Alabama legislative session, which begins in February, to make the decision to disaffiliate from the ALA for them.
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