The Autauga County Commission has appointed four members to the Prattville library board in the last two weeks, leaving some residents critical that the commission has “stacked the board.”
“Read Freely Alabama is deeply disappointed by the Autauga County Commission’s decision to appoint three more Clean Up Alabama/Moms for Liberty affiliates to the Autauga-Prattville Public Library Board without any transparency to their constituents,” said Read Freely in a public statement released Thursday.
The accusation is not born out of thin air—the commission had planned to appoint former Prattville councilman Tony Moore two weeks ago before backlash ultimately led the commission to choose Doug Darr instead. Moore has been closely involved with Clean Up Prattville/Alabama for months as the two sides have clashed over how the library handles challenged content in sections intended for minors.
Although the commission ultimately pivoted away from Moore, some citizens have cited concerns about Darr’s alignment with Clean Up’s goals, as he has publicly promoted petitions and events hosted by the book-challenging group.
Darr confirmed to APR that he is “concerned about some of the stuff in the kids section” but stopped short of aligning himself entirely with Clean Up.
Hannah Rees, executive director of Clean Up Alabama, apparently believes the appointees will fall in line with the group’s agenda as well, posting to the “Moms for Liberty – Madison County” Facebook group Tuesday night that “We got three solid board members appointed by the county tonight. That means we will have 4 of the seven and have the majority!!! Waiting on two more appointments but likely these will be favorable if things go according to plan.”
Two of the three new nominees rejected the idea that they are in Clean Up’s corner.
“I don’t want anyone to tag me as one way or another; I want to know everything I can know,” said Logan Strock, who teaches agriculture at Billingsley High School. “To be frank, I don’t have a take yet. I’m glad I did get to hear both sides of the issue. I want to get on the baord before I have an opinion about anything.”
Strock said he is not joining the library board specifically because of the recent controversy, but because the library was a tremendous part of his childhood and played a key role in his passion for education.
Former Prattville councilman Ray Boles said he has never met Rees and doesn’t agree with her statement, at least as it pertains to himself.
“I really want everyone to just calm down. Our community is made of many different beliefs and many different people,” Boles said. “The library is not paid for by one group; the library is for everybody and should be welcoming and safe for everybody. I want to be part of making that happen.”
Boles also said he has no opinion on how the previous board handled the onslaught of challenges over the past six months. “I know them and they have extremely good hearts.It is what it is;” Boles said. “I don’t blame any of them for saying ‘forget it’ and going home after being attacked by everybody on both sides. My heart goes out to them.”
County Commission Chairman Jay Thompson said he favored candidates who weren’t too extreme toward either side and thought the commission had struck a fair balance.
Boles said his intent is to be neutral, and said he is more focused on library funding than the recent spate of challenges.
“My agenda is to find out why the library not funded properly,” Boles said. “ I want to get into the books financially and then I’ll be more than happy to come back and tell the truth— good, bad or indifferent.”
Although he said he can’t speak for the other appointees, he said they have discussed not wanting to ban any books.
“We do not want to give the impression we have banned a book; we don’t want CNN down here,” Boles said. “This library is for the community, it’s for everybody.
“I just ask this community on both sides to give us one year before y’all start throwing stones,” Boles said. “Give us one year, let us figure out the finances—the bigger problem is the finances—let’s fund this thing and move the library forward.”
One year from now, Darr will roll back off of the library board, as his appointment is for the one-year term that rotates between city and county. While Rees posted to the Moms for Liberty group that she expects upcoming appointments by the city will also be favorable to their agenda, a Dec. 4 email from Clean Up Alabama says the opposite.
“Rumor at town hall is that the city council will not appoint anyone affiliated with Clean Up Alabama, AKA anyone who wants to protect children,” the group put out in an email blast.
The city has not yet broken with tradition of appointing a nominee recommended by the library board. The county breaking with that precedent is the straw that broke the camel’s back, leading to the four remaining board members resigning en masse last week.
With no quorum, the county or city was going to have to break precedent at least once to reestablish a quorum, but the county went ahead with all three of the appointments.
It’s not clear at this time whether the city will wait for these new board members to recommend nominees or follow suit with their own picks given the unique position the board is in.
The board’s next regular scheduled meeting isn’t until February, although a special meeting could likely be called before then to set officers and begin taking up business. Members of Clean Up Alabama called on the board to create policy by January that would place a moratorium on ordering “these kinds of books” moving forward as well as other policies regarding labeling books and what books belong in minor sections.
Based on public comments before the vote Tuesday, the objectionable content continues to be books with “sexually explicit” content but also books dealing with gender ideology and other LGBTQ themes and characters.
APR was not immediately able to obtain contact information for Rachel Daniels, the other appointee, for comment on this story.