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Librarians, “Read Freely” react to APLS memo

Read Freely said that is disappointing, but ultimately won’t change how local libraries operate.

The Ozark Dale County Public Library is one of the latest battlegrounds over LGBTQ books. BRENDA SIMECHAK VIA FACEBOOK

State librarian Nancy Pack released a memo earlier this month that emphasizes moving “potentially inappropriate material” to other areas of the library is not censorship.

That has upset some of the state’s librarians and Read Freely Alabama, the group fighting book challenges across the state.

“While Read Freely Alabama (RFA) understands APLS Director Nancy Pack’s concession was driven by a threat to state library funding, and we empathize with Dr. Pack’s position, we cannot support her decisions,” RFA said in a statement Tuesday.  “Throughout this controversy, we have witnessed many Alabama public library directors stand firm in their professional ethics, often in the face of threats to library funding, to defend their libraries, employees, and community members. Unfortunately, Dr. Pack did the exact opposite.”

The language in Pack’s memo, at least regarding censorship, is lifted almost entirely from Gov. Kay Ivey’s public letter to Pack urging her and the APLS to clarify that moving books should not be considered censorship.

In Ivey’s letter, she also suggested making state aid contingent upon libraries submitting policies regarding potentially inappropriate content.

Andrew Foster, director at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library that has served as a major battleground in the cultural war, said he and his staff were nervous on the first reading of Pack’s memo.

“It felt like a complete capitulation to all these things that we’ve been pushing back against and fighting against and saying ‘No, this is censorship,’” Foster said. “This truly felt like surrender to that.”

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Within the same memo, Pack announced APLS’ intent to disaffiliate from the American Library Association, which has been maligned by Republicans nationwide.

Read Freely said that is disappointing, but ultimately won’t change how local libraries operate.

“The ALA is not a governing body, but a professional organization,” the group said. “The library profession transcends the association, and we are confident that library professionals will adhere to the tenets of constitutional librarianship, with or without the ALA.”

“Read Freely Alabama is disappointed that Gov. Ivey has, however unintentionally, given credibility to the false accusations that our state’s librarians are endangering or sexualizing Alabama’s children. We urge our representatives to make these important decisions based on facts, rather than politicized misinformation.”

Karen Speck, director of the Ozark-Dale County Library, said she disagrees with the memo’s statement on censorship, but doesn’t put that on Pack.

“I think she was put in an impossible position,” Speck said.

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

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