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State librarian: Dissociating from ALA could lead to “negative repercussions”

Clean Up Alabama’s own meeting minutes illustrate that severing ties with the ALA is the group’s main objective.

Alabama Public Library Service director Dr. Nancy Pack.

Dr. Nancy Pack, director of the Alabama Public Library Service, sent a letter to Gov. Kay Ivey last week in response to Ivey’s letter regarding library issues.

In addition to Pack’s response letter, Pack also included a critical analysis on whether the APLS should sever ties with the American Library Association, something that ALGOP leaders from ALGOP chair have been pushing. That includes ALGOP chair and APLS board member John Wahl, House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, Rep. Susan Dubose, R-Hoover and more.

Pack found that completely severing ties with the ALA could lead to “negative repercussions,” and listed out 12 of those repercussions. They include:

  • Loss of advocacy power
  • Limited professional development opportunities
  • Isolation from national initiatives
  • Diminished resources and guidelines
  • Impaired collaboration and networking
  • Challenges in addressing national issues
  • Impact on intellectual freedom efforts 
  • Reduced focus on diversity and inclusion
  • Potential funding disadvantages 
  • Perception of professionalism
  • Loss of accreditation impact
  • Challenges in addressing technological advances

“While I understand the concerns raised nationally and by local groups in Alabama, I believe that severing ties with the American Library Association (ALA) would be a disservice to the principles of intellectual freedom, education, and democratic discourse that our society holds dear,” Pack wrote.

Clean Up Alabama’s own meeting minutes illustrate that severing ties with the ALA is the group’s main objective for addressing libraries at the APLS level. At an APLS board meeting last week, Wahl specifically expressed concern about ALA president Emily Drabinski’s publicly stated Marxist ideology.

Drabinski’s comments have led other states to consider severing ties with the ALA; Montana’s state Legislature has already done so.

Pack clarified that Drabinski’s personal political beliefs do not make the ALA a Marxist organization.

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“It’s important to note that the ALA’s support for the President’s views does not necessarily imply an endorsement of Marxism as a whole,” Pack said. “Rather, the ALA is dedicated to promoting open dialogue and the exchange of ideas, which are fundamental to a healthy democracy. Disengaging from the ALA based on a singular ideological disagreement could be seen as an attempt to stifle intellectual diversity and limit the range of perspectives that Alabama residents are exposed to.”

While the main focus at the APLS level has been severing ties with the ALA, Pack also addressed concerns about how libraries manage what materials are appropriate for children, and emphasized parents’ role in deciding what content their children read.

Regarding concerns about censorship, it’s important to clarify that the ALA’s stance on accessibility is rooted in the belief that individuals should have the freedom to explore a variety of materials and perspectives,” Pack wrote. “This does not equate to unrestricted access for minors to explicit content. Libraries play a crucial role in ensuring that materials are age-appropriate and align with community standards, and they often implement measures to limit access to explicit content by minors.

“It appears that some organizations are requesting for librarians to play the role of a parent for children in the library.”

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

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