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Moms for Liberty sends letter to lawmakers urging action on libraries

The group lays out its objectives in the letter, including giving the state agency more control of local library collection policies.

To do list reminder to read a banned book, along with a pile of books frequently on censorship lists.

Moms for Liberty Alabama sent out a letter to lawmakers last week urging them to take action to prevent libraries from offering certain materials to children and adolescents.

“It is time for the Alabama Legislature to utilize the power of state funding and directives to (the Alabama Public Library Service) to push towards meaningful and long-lasting changes that protect minors and empower parents to have their voice heard,” the group wrote in the letter, signed off on by Emily Jones and Rebecca Watson of the Madison and Baldwin County chapters of the group.

Those are the only two Moms for Liberty groups operating in the state, although the statewide group Clean Up Alabama takes many cues from the group and Moms for Liberty has recently sought out Mobile County residents to form a chapter there.

The group lays out its objectives in the letter, ranging from actions that are already underway at APLS to giving the state agency more control of local library collection policies:

  • The APLS should disaffiliate from the American Library Association
  • The APLS should become Alabama’s primary source of professional development, policy suggestions and resources for local Alabama library systems instead of the ALA
  • The APLS should develop a clear policy on book screening and placement that can be recommended to local library systems
  • The APLS should develop objective criteria concerning age appropriateness of sexual content and book placement in the child, juvenile and young adult sections of public libraries
  • The state legislature should consider limiting and/or removing state funding to local library systems that refuse to act on (Gov. Kay Ivey’s) call to revise current policy in regard to parental rights, book reconsideration forms, and sexualized content for minors
  • The APLS should enact a software update that prevents minor using a child library card from checking out books and resources above their stated age group. A software update is needed statewide as a protective measure

That last call to action is particularly questionable, as the APLS does not manage the software libraries use for checking out books. If lawmakers were to require all libraries receiving state aid to implement such software, it would be a novel approach to administer it through APLS.

It would also be out of the current scope of the APLS to set criteria for age appropriateness of sexual content and book placement, as the agency is not involved in how libraries manage content. The board is still waiting to receive an opinion from Attorney General Steve Marshall on what authority the agency has to micromanage local libraries, although actions of the legislature could conceivably expand that authority.

The letter states that objective criteria should be developed to screen books placed in the young adult section, and that “there is no reason that any minor in Alabama should be exposed to pornographic material.”

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One such book, the letter claims, is “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” The letter calls the book “pornographic,” although that assertion is debatable. The group included photographs of four pages within the book, including a passage detailing the author’s sexual encounter with his male cousin as a young adult. The author describes the encounter in explicit detail, and explains his emotional state. It also includes a description of his first consensual sexual encounter later in the book.

In the front of the book is a message that the book was purchased with funding from a grant from State Sen. Sam Givan, R-Huntsville, which the letter said was intended for “uplifting fiction and educational material.”

In the letter, the group claims the book was checked out by a 9-year-old boy.

“Situations like this will continue to happen to well-meaning citizens that support libraries because these books are what the ALA is currently promoting,” the letter said.

The book is listed as being in the young adult non-fiction section of two library branches within the Huntsville-Madison system, with those sections typically aimed at teens from 12-18. The book publisher recommends the book for ages 14 and up.

The letter argues that the ALA “has been pushing for books that sexualize and groom children for several years,” and then to back up that assertion, references a 2019 series of workshops on “drag queen story hours and queer inclusion” at the association’s annual conference.

“We now find ourselves in a battle between parents who want to be the ones who teach their children about sex versus those who want the librarians to provide that role,” the group said in the letter.

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The letter then references section B.8.6.2 of the ALA Manual, which is entitled “Sex Education Materials in Libraries.” It reads: “ALA affirms the right of youth to comprehensive, sex-related education, materials, programs, and referral services of the highest quality; affirms the active role of librarians in providing such; and urges librarians and library educators to reexamine existing policies and practices and assume a leadership role in seeing that information is available for children and adolescents, parents, and youth-serving professionals.”

Neither Moms for Liberty nor Clean Up Alabama discloses the actual size of its membership; however, observations at events show that it is a very small portion of those who use libraries on a regular basis, and more a part of a political movement to exploit cultural battles for partisan political advantage.

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

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