The executive board of the Alabama Public Library Service voted Thursday to delay its decision on whether to remain a member of the American Library Association.
APLS director Nancy Pack sent out a memo in October recommending the board not renew its ALA membership, as lawmakers have pressured the agency to cut ties with the association. APLS board member—and ALGOP chairman—John Wahl sent out a letter Wednesday indicating he would move for the disaffiliation, raising concerns of the association having Marxist tendencies.
But other board members said they’d like more time and information to consider just what that move would mean for the library service.
With the APLS’ current ALA membership ending in March, the board decided to revisit the issue at its March meeting.
Wahl said he thinks tabling the vote was a “healthy decision.”
“You know, obviously, I have serious concerns with the American American Library Association (and with) their president stating proudly that she is an open Marxist,” Wahl said. “… but I think it’s smart anytime you’re dealing with the question dealing with a state agency to have all the information. I respect my other board members wanting to, you know, kind of see how that process would look, how it would affect our current involvement, and come back in January for a vote in which I’ll be clearly very supportive of separation.”
The APLS does not receive any money from the ALA; instead it pays membership dues and receives access to professional resources.
Wahl said he’d like to see those resources offered in-state, even if the Legislature needs to increase funding to support those resources.
“I think that’s the one positive thing that could come out of this,” Wahl said.
All of the board members agreed that libraries have been the victims of the recent controversy.
“They have degraded professional libraries,” Pack said. “My degree has been degraded down to nothing. And to me that is awful. It’s going to be very hard to recruit staff.”
Board chairman Ron Snider said library staff and board members have been called “Nazis” and threatened with physical harm.
“This vitriol that is happening is hurting all libraries,” Snider said.”I hope people will keep that in mind, the damage that this has all done.”
Board member Virginia Doyle said the threats from elected officials to take away funding will particularly hurt the small rural libraries that rely on state aid.
“I don’t know who got to state legislators and the governor to get them to threaten to take away our state funding, it won’t hurt me and it won’t hurt you” Doyle told Wahl. “To take away our $1.31 per capita— they probably spend more money at a flight show in Paris than a library gets in a year’s time. If they want to cut funding, they will go home and face the people it does hurt. It affects them.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t get there,” Wahl responded.
The board also considered complaints from both sides of the debate from Read Freely Alabama and Clean Up Alabama, ultimately deciding not to take any actions on the complaints.
Read Freely wrote to the board about Wahl having a conflict of interest as he was scheduled to speak at a Clean Up Alabama roundtable event. Snider said board members are free to express their personal views and that it does not reflect the views of the board as a whole.
Clean Up Alabama wrote to the board about Pack’s appearance at a meeting of the Autauga-Prattville Public Library board asking the board to look into statements Pack made that they believe indicate she played a part in cancelling Brave Books events in Madison County and Millbrook. The committee that reviewed the letter said there was insufficient evidence to pursue the matter any further.
The board voted unanimously to publish the proposed amendments to the APLS code that would require member libraries to submit policies regarding the handling of challenged content in order to receive state aid.
The amendments have a long road ahead, as Snider said the next available time for the publication of the proposed changes will be Jan. 31, 2024. There will then be a 90-day public comment period, meaning changes will come in May at the earliest.