The Alabama Public Library Service began the process Thursday to adopt amendments to the agency’s code at the request of Gov. Kay Ivey.
On Oct. 4, Ivey wrote a letter to APLS Executive Director Nancy Pack detailing her concern about the exposure of youth to “inappropriate materials” and recommended three changes to the APLS code in an attempt to rectify the perceived problem.
Ivey’s first recommendation is “to make state aid for local libraries contingent on the adoption of sensible policies to facilitate greater parental supervision of their children.”
Rule 520-2-2.03 of the APLs code states that, “in order to receive state aid, a library board must … (f) approve written policies for the public library which cover the following:”
The current list of required policies includes the topics of patrons, material selection, overdue fines and fees, and a variety of other policies a public library needs to function efficiently.
Ivey’s suggested amendment adds two new subsections that would become required policies for library boards to implement:
“11. Physical location (and relocation) of sexually explicit or other material
deemed inappropriate for children or youth
“12. Advance approval of materials recommended, displayed, or otherwise actively promoted to children or youth”
While the amendment requires boards to make policies regarding these topics, it doesn’t explain further, leaving a lot of flexibility to local library boards to determine what those policies should look like.
“Taking this action will leave the precise details up to local library boards,” Ivey wrote in the letter. “But it will ensure that every public library in the state newly considers these important ways to create a welcoming library environment.”
The vagueness of the language doesn’t make it clear where the “advance approval” of materials should come from, or who would deem content inappropriate for minors, but both seemingly refer to the local library board.
Another change to the code simply affirms that “exercising discretion in the location of sexually explicit material or other material deemed by the public library board to be inappropriate for children or youth does not constitute a denial of service on the basis of age.”
Ivey wrote in her letter that “according to reports, librarians have cited (current) policy as a reason not to relocate inflammatory exhibits in a library’s children’s section, but such a policy is indefensible and has no place in Alabama libraries.”
Libraries already catalog books according to age.
The third prong of Ivey’s proposed amendments deals with the expenditure of local libraries to the American Library Association.
If the changes are approved, local library boards would need to pre-approve expenditures to the ALA.
“Any expenditure of public funds to the American Library Association must be approved by the governing board of the public library or public library system in an open, public meeting following advance public notice,” the new code language states.
Only 20 libraries in the state have institutional memberships, meaning they pay dues to the association.
Although the APLS executive board took its first action toward adopting the amendments Thursday, it will be a long wait before the board can take a final vote on the matter.
APLS Board President Ron Snider told members that the proposed changes cannot be submitted until January 2024, publishing on Jan. 31. That would start the clock a 90-day public comment period before the board could hold a hearing on the matter, which would put off a vote until at least June 2024.