The Autauga County Commission on Tuesday appointed three new members to the Autauga-Prattville Public Library board of trustees after a controversial appointment at its last meeting led to four board members resigning.
The commission voted unanimously to appoint Logan Strock and Rachel Daniels, local educators, and Ray Boles, a local business owner.
There was no discussion of the appointees before the votes.
The vote came after an hour-and-a-half of public comment from both sides of the ongoing debate over how the library handles certain content in the children’s and young adult sections, which has become a statewide issue.
Members of Clean Up Alabama, the Autauga County GOP executive committee, Eagle Forum and like-minded residents called on the county to appoint members who would keep sexually explicit content and LGBTQ content out of sections for minors. Some also referenced pornography or obscenity in those sections, although no books challenged at the library meet either of those definitions.
“We’re standing at a critical point in our cultural and educational development, and our decisions today will help shape the minds of our future generations,” said Frances Peek. “Libraries are sanctuaries of learning, gateways to worlds of knowledge and imagination; however, with this great resource comes the need for prudent stewardship. It is crucial that we protect young minds from materials that are inappropriate for their age and development.”
Members of Read Freely Alabama and like-minded residents asked the county to appoint board members that don’t treat LGBTQ content as inappropriate for young readers, and to make appointments based on input from the library, although the library board did not have a quorum to make recommendations for this meeting.
“The first round of books that were challenged had no sexually explicit content. Why are we still pretending,” asked Angie Hayden of Read Freely.
“Clean up Alabama is not a group of concerned citizens, they are a radical group of extremists who are using this community to further their ideology,” said Caryl Lawson. “Please choose board members who are against censorship and who will uphold the rights of all private citizens. not just those who aligned with their personal beliefs.”
Commission Chair Jay Thompson said that he had personally received somewhere around 30 applications and said he preferred applicants who were not on either extreme.
“I mean, so the people I was looking at was trying to get people that were somewhat in the middle; not too extreme one way or too extreme the other way—but people who had, you know, good moral values and could look at things different ways.”
Thompson said he thinks the commission struck that balance with its slate of appointees.
As for why the commission chose to break with precedent at its last meeting and make an appointment without a recommendation from the library board, Thompson said the library board didn’t make a recommendation in time.
“We had an appointment come due for December, so the library board knew we needed names by the end of November,” Thompson said. “We only have two meetings a month, so if you want to have somebody appointed … we got to have that before our last meeting of the month.”
On the same night of the county’s appointment of Doug Darr, the Prattville City Council also made an appointment to the board based on the board’s recommendation. The seat merely went unfilled until the board could recommend a replacement.
The Prattville City Council still has to make two appointments of its own. It did not take action on those appointments Tuesday night.