The public comment period on potential changes to Alabama’s state library code begins Wednesday, but public librarians through the Alabama Library Association (ALLA) have released their own counterproposal to the changes.
Gov. Kay Ivey suggested the changes after a series of complaints that public libraries were being unduly influenced by the American Library Association to provide inappropriate materials to children.
The ALLA released its counterproposal Tuesday and said it will be hosting a series of town halls encouraging their membership, librarians, library employees, library boards, and library supporters to incorporate these amendments into their own public comments to the APLS Board.
The major difference between Ivey’s proposed changes and ALLA’s is a section by the librarians declaring libraries cannot stand in place of parents on deciding what content is suitable for minors.
“Per the 1975 Code of Alabama, Section 11-90-3, the public library must be easily available to all citizens of its county or municipality; and it cannot deny service to anyone on the basis of age, race, sex or creed,” the new code section states. “For any minor in the public library, the parent/guardian retains the ultimate authority to determine what materials their child may or may not access. The library cannot act in loco parentis.”
This section is a complete rewrite of Ivey’s proposed new section, which seeks to emphasize that relocating materials from the children’s and young adult sections of the library does not violate libraries’ creed not to discriminate on the basis of age.
In line with ALLA’s emphasis on parental guidance, the association also added language that libraries must adopt policies on unsupervised minors in order to obtain state aid, language that Ivey did not include in her version.
ALLA has also rewritten the other two policy categories that Ivey hinged state aid on.
Under Ivey’s version, in order to receive state aid, libraries would need to have policies covering “physical location (and relocation) of sexually explicit or other material
deemed inappropriate for children or youth” and “advance approval of materials recommended, displayed, or otherwise actively promoted to children or youth.”
ALLA’s version changes those required policies to cover “material location OR Reconsideration of Materials Policy” and “display policy.”
The librarian association did not alter Ivey’s third prong of the proposed revisions, requiring libraries to get advance approval from the library board at a public meeting before spending taxpayer funds to the American Library Association.
If any proposed changes are altered from Ivey’s language, it would require the process to begin again, kicking off a new 90-day public comment period once the revisions are made. The timeline already makes it unlikely that the changes will go into effect before the end of the upcoming legislative session.
Some Republican lawmakers have suggested using the power of the purse to cajole libraries to bend to the will of book challengers, and Ivey booted APLS board member Virginia Doyle after she criticized threats to the agency’s funding.
The APLS is set to consider a resolution Tuesday honoring Doyle’s accomplishments during her years of service on the board.