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Prattville Library Board calls special meeting as it seeks to move LGBTQ books

No further details were given as to who the board plans to discuss at the meeting.

Lettering on the outside of the Prattville Public Library against a brick wall.
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The Autauga-Prattville Public Library Board of Trustees has called a special meeting for Thursday, March 14 to discuss the good name and character of an individual.

The meeting was announced Tuesday on the library’s Facebook page, despite another meeting already being set for Monday, March 18. No further details were given as to who the board plans to discuss at the meeting.

Library board chair Ray Boles has declined to comment to APR, calling the site “fake news.”

The meeting comes as Boles and Vice Chair Rachel Daniels have urged Library Director Andrew Foster to move 113 books out of the young adult section, most of them with LGBTQ characters or content.

Library attorney Laura Clark suggested in an email to Foster that the books could be completely removed from the library without a board meeting, although board members had specifically asked to relocate the books, not remove them.

Clark commented Tuesday on an APR Facebook post sharing the story including information from that email and mischaracterized it by claiming that “Foster wants to remove” the books.

“If you saw the actual email exchange you would see Foster wants to remove them,” Clark responded to another commenter.

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In the email, Foster specifically highlights his concern about Clark’s advice, noting that board members have asked only to move books, and not “weed” them as Clark discussed in her email.

Foster says in the email that if the board wants to weed the books, “please let me know and I can do so.”

While Foster could weed materials of his own accord, whether the policies allow board members to exercise discretion over whether a particular book should be weeded is flimsy at best. 

The policies give “the board” the right to exercise discretion over weeding, but when a policy gives power to a governmental body as a whole, it requires a vote of that body to take action.

New selection criteria is also overbroad, and with no discussion by board members before voting on the new policies, there is no clarification to draw on outside of individual members’ interpretations of the policies. Indeed, several books included on the 113-book list seem to fall outside the bounds of prohibited selection criteria completely, further weakening the notion that an individual board member can be the arbiter of what should be weeded or relocated.

Typically when a governmental body talks about good name and character, they call an executive session to discuss the matter behind closed doors, and APR expects that will be the case Thursday. Oftentimes those sessions preclude personnel decisions such as the hiring, termination or discipline of an employee.

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

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