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Clean Up Alabama is looking to fund Prattville library’s legal fight

Clean Up Alabama is asking people to donate to fund the legal battle at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library.

Autauga-Prattville Public Library
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Clean Up Alabama is asking people to donate to fund the legal battle at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library, according to two emails sent out this week by the organization.

An email sent out Monday promises donors a free “Make Libraries Great Again” hat for donations over $50 with the remaining proceeds to go toward legal fees for the library.

An email sent Tuesday focuses on the lawyers hired to represent the plaintiffs, stating that the lawsuit was “orchestrated by wealthy D.C. and Chicago based activists” with a link to a blog claiming that Read Freely Alabama is an “astroturf” group created by the American Library Association.

APR detailed Read Freely and Clean Up Alabama’s connections to outside organizations and funding, with Read Freely appearing to be an organic grassroots organization while Clean Up is connected to a variety of out-of-state organizations and political operatives.

“Help the Autauga Prattville Public Library stop the left wing activists hell bent on radicalizing the children of Alabama,” the email states.

While the lawyers hired by the plaintiffs are from a D.C.-based firm founded by former Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden officials, the plaintiffs are all either APPL patrons or Alabamians involved with libraries.

“Prattville parents and Alabama librarians brought this lawsuit because the Orwellian policies pushed by Clean Up Alabama and their allies on the extremist-stacked Autauga-Prattville Public Library Board of Trustees are threatening to keep constitutionally-protected books off of shelves,” Read Freely Alabama said in a statement to APR. “Prattville is ground zero for these unconstitutional policies that target books that reflect the experiences of Alabama families, demonstrating how out of touch these extremists are with everyday Alabamians. Prattville families and Alabama librarians are challenging these policies to ensure all families find themselves and their stories on every section of the library shelves.” 

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Clean Up also linked to a separate fundraising page that includes most of the same text as the fundraising email, with some additional information.

The separate page lists “challenges” the board has faced, including “activists working against the board were caught stealing almost $1,000 worth of books.” This is referencing employees who briefly moved books out of the library immediately following the termination of Director Andrew Foster out of an apparent concern that the books would be immediately removed from collection.

The page also states that the board has “been focused on compliance with all federal laws, including those related to accessibility for all patrons that were neglected in the past.”

At the May 16 board meeting, Clark stated that she had been working alongside the Department of Justice to make the library more accessible for people with disabilities. It also touts the board working to increase wages for staff, although the board only requested level-funding from the city and county.

The page also gives insight into the payment of Clark, who the board contracted with at $200 per hour. The description explains that “the board is extremely grateful to its attorney, Laura Clark, who has donated hundreds of hours in service to the library.”

“But this lawsuit, where the implications will set a precedent for children, families and libraries across the nation, is more than she as one person can tackle,” the statement continues. “The board has retained Bryan Taylor as lead counsel for this case. In order to keep the library funded and operation in the midst of unjust attacks, the board is fundraising to cover its legal expenses.”

APR submitted a public records request on May 16 including financial statements for the first four months of 2024, the contracts for Clark and Taylor and any insurance policy that would cover the costs of litigation. Director Tammy Bear told APR the request is being considered time-intensive and no records have been furnished at this point.

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

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