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House education budget chair says $750K being “redirected” from Library Service

That represents a nearly 5 percent decrease in the state agency’s operation budget.

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As controversy has roiled Alabama libraries over the past year, it appears the battle will likely deal a heavy blow to the operational budget for the Alabama Public Library Service.

House Education Budget Chair Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, said $750,000 in funding is planned to be “redirected” from APLS in a budget substitution slated for a vote Tuesday.

Garrett confirmed to APR that the money would be pulled from the APLS operating budget while state aid and other APLS programs would be level-funded.

That represents a nearly 5 percent decrease in the state agency’s operation budget compared to the anticipated funding from the ETF budget, and at least a 4 percent reduction overall.

John Wahl, APLS board member and ALGOP chair, told the board two weeks ago that he had talked to Garrett and requested level-funding but had received “pushback” due to the controversies in libraries.

“As a member of the APLS board and someone who cares deeply about our library systems, I strongly support the full funding of the APLS budget,” Wahl told APR Thursday. “There has been a lot of controversy surrounding some local libraries this year, as well as concerns about social agendas being pushed by the American Library Association. I share many of those concerns, and I believe it is extremely important that the APLS board and our local libraries make sure we protect children from inappropriate sexual content.

“That being said, I believe we can address these issues best by having a strong and fully funded APLS program.”

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The proposed substitution would send half-a-million dollars instead to Better Basics, a program providing intervention in reading and math in Central Alabama, and $250,000 to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program.

Gov. Kay Ivey pushed the Imagination Library program statewide this year to provide books to underprivileged children.

At the Autauga-Prattville Public Library, the epicenter of the book challenges, the Imagination Library program had to be indefinitely postponed after the majority of staff either quit or were fired in the wake of policy changes that are now on the table statewide.

The reduced funding to APLS would be a hit to Wahl’s stated goals of seeing the APLS actually receive increased support from the Legislature to offer more trainings and resources that some local libraries currently get from the American Library Association.

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

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