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APLS director discusses Alabama library content and controversies

There has been a wave of challenges to content in libraries nationwide. Over the past few months that wave has reached Alabama.

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On Friday, Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) Director Dr. Nancy Pack discussed Alabama’s libraries and several controversies that have risen lately on Capitol Journal.  

There has been a wave of challenges to content in libraries nationwide. Over the past few months that wave has reached Alabama.

Pack was asked about content regarding children and parents complaining about their children being exposed to certain content. Pack said that children are very diverse and children have different family compositions. Pack specifically used children’s books that lack stories of same-sex couples to make the point that children come from these families and want to see their lives represented.

“When you say this is inappropriate for one child it might be appropriate for another,” Pack said. “So, it gets down to the parent talking to the child if it’s appropriate. You have children who want to see their family. You see, in most children’s books you see a mom, a dad and children. You see racially mixed families and different children who have stepbrothers and sisters who are a different nationality as them. But when you get down to the gay and lesbian books, there’s not a whole lot of them out there that show two moms or two dads and the child. That child wants to see their family represented in like all these other books. You know, you have mom and dad and children here. Why aren’t my two moms or my two dads represented like that?”.

Primarily the arguments for challenging specific books recently is because they are deemed “inappropriate”, sexual/obscene or promote “gender ideology.” Republicans and conservatives are the primary individuals responsible for these challenges.

Conservatives routinely claim to be the party of family values. However, these “values” frequently exclude and attack LGBTQ+ or same-sex households, families and children.

APR’s Jacob Holmes did an extensive review of 44 book challenges that were brought against the Prattville Public Library in August. Nearly every book challenged included LGBTQ+ content and equated that content to pornography or obscenity. 

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On Sept. 1 Gov. Kay Ivey sent a letter to Pack weighing in on the recent issues surrounding Alabama libraries and her concerns for children being exposed to “inappropriate” content. Ivey also criticized the American Library Association (ALA) and the organization’s Library Bill of Rights.

ALA’s Library Bill of Rights was created in 1939 in response to Nazi book burnings. One of the first book burnings by the Nazis included a library collection at the Institute of Sexology, “an academic foundation devoted to sexological research and the advocacy of homosexual rights.”

APR reported that Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship sent a text message on March 21, to the Ozark Dale County Library Director and a library board member. Blankenship was asking how to get a book with an LGBTQ+ sticker removed after a constituent complained. The library board member, Monica Carroll, replied saying, “I’ll bring a match”, along with two laughing emojis.

APR also discovered that Clean Up Prattville, the organization pushing book challenges in Prattville, quoted Hitler in a July newsletter.

When asked about Ivey’s letter and the American Library Association (ALA) Pack said ALA had no authority when it comes to content in Alabama’s libraries. Pack said that ALA only functions to provide resources, guidance and assistance to Alabama libraries but the decision regarding book content falls upon local libraries.

“They [ALA] have no say so in what you collect,” Pack said. “It goes back to your local community. … ALA doesn’t have the power to go out and say you need this book in your library. And they do not have the funds to send the book to the library.”

Pack said that the key is that parents need to be more involved with their children and understand them to better accommodate their needs. 

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Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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