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Autauga-Prattville Library Board fires controversial director

On Thursday, the Autauga-Prattville Public Library board voted to fire embattled Library Director Andrew Foster in a special called meeting for sharing internal emails with the Alabama Political Reporter’s Jacob Holmes.

Foster shared emails between board members and himself with a reporter for Alabama Political Reporter (APR). Those communications were published by APR on Monday.

Vice Chair Rachel Daniels made the motion to terminate Director Foster. The motion carried and Foster was terminated for having disclosed confidential communications to the press.

Several of the library employees were incensed by the firing of Director Foster. In a bizarre scene that unfolded after, they closed the library early and locked themselves in the building with Holmes. Three employees were reportedly fired.

In response to the firing of Foster and staff members, Alabama Public Library Association President Matthew Layne said the situation is being driven by “social extremists” who are “utilizing ruthless, strong-arm tactics to transform them into political battlegrounds.”

“What has taken place during the past several days at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library is a travesty that should frighten every Alabama resident,” Layne said. “The termination of Library Director Andrew Foster and members of his professional staff is an unjust, politically motivated attack on the livelihood of individuals who did nothing wrong, and undermines this library’s capacity for properly, effectively serving the public.”

The Autauga-Prattville Library has been at the center of a statewide controversy for months after it was discovered that the library offered books containing sexually-explicit content content and information about transitioning genders from a young age.

RELATED: Ivey seeks answers over ‘sexually suggestive’ books in public libraries

The Board initially defended the policy and the decisions made by the librarians to include such books in the library’s collection. Enormous political pressure was then placed on the board by the Autauga County Republican Party, Eagle Forum, Moms for Liberty, and even Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.

The board has since turned over to a board that is more attune with Alabama values and the community standards that Alabama families and governments expect from their libraries.

Foster claims that the new board has encouraged him “to weed out” problematic books from their collection rather than just move them out of the children’s sections and claims that the emails he shared with APR were intended to illustrate that position.

The Alabama Legislature has passed legislation this year allowing the local appointing authority to remove members of the library board. City councils and county commissions previously could make appointments to the board; but they did not have that power. State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) brought legislation to rectify that situation, bringing the libraries more closely under the control of the local governments that fund them.

RELATED: State Sen. Elliott: Local officials ‘should have the ability’ to remove library board members

To address these concerns, Gov. Ivey and the Alabama Library Board have created a new program, where parents and concerned citizens can now review books that they have a problem with and put them on a list of age-inappropriate books that should not be in the children’s sections. Librarians are being encouraged to move those type of books to the adult section of the library.

The new Autauga-Prattville Library Board has been accused of censorship by liberal groups in support of the librarians. The Board will now begin a search for a new library director. There are likely to be further personnel changes at the troubled library in the coming weeks.

Foster told APR that he is weighing his legal options immediately following his termination.

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