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Ozark-Dale library defines “sexually explicit,” “harmful to minors” ahead of APLS code

The state code changes must clear a few more procedural hurdles before being binding on libraries.

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The Ozark-Dale County Public Library Board Thursday approved definitions in library policy for “sexually explicit” and “harmful to minors” in anticipation of administrative code changes at the Alabama Public Library Service.

After a robust discussion, the board ultimately voted to define sexually explicit based on a combination of definitions from state law and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The board also voted to adopt the state’s definition “material harmful to minors” as its definition of material inappropriate for minors.

The state code changes must clear a few more procedural hurdles before being binding on libraries. Once the code becomes implemented, libraries will need to have policies keeping sexually explicit materials, and other materials “deemed inappropriate for minors” away from sections intended for minors.

The Ozark-Dale library board decided that material inappropriate for minors should match the state’s definition of harmful to minors, which is basically just restating that books for minors should not be sexually explicit.

The meet the definition of “harmful to minors” under state law, a book must be found to “appeal to the prurient interest of minors” when taken as a whole and lack serious scientific, literary, artistic or political value.

The board did not deem books dealing with LGBTQ content to be inappropriate of themselves. The library came under fire from Mayor Mark Blankenship last year as he ordered the library to remove all LGBTQ books or lose city funding.

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That turned out to be an empty threat, as the Ozark Council majority said they would not defund the library.

The state code does not mention gender identity or sexual orientation, although the original changes proposed by APLS board member Amy Minton would have targeted those books akin to a policy enacted in Prattville, which currently faces a federal lawsuit.

Ozark-Dale library board member Michael Cairns argued to his board that the library should not adopt any definitions of sexually explicit or inappropriate for minors that did not appear in state or federal law, citing concerns that defining it their own way could lead to lawsuits.

Ozark-Dale is the first known library board to craft policy in direct response to the APLS code changes. The Prattville library policy committee meets today to consider changing its policy in light of the state code changes, and other libraries like Orange Beach have preemptively changed policies in response to their own challenges.

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

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