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APLS director gives guidance to librarians on new code changes

Libraries will have until June 30, 2025 to submit new policies to receive state aid for FY2025.

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There has been some confusion lately amongst librarians about compliance with likely new administrative code changes at the Alabama Public Library Service, so director Nancy Pack sent out an email Tuesday.

While the APLS executive board voted to amend and approve code changes at its May 16 meeting, the code will not be in effect until at least July 15. That could change, Pack said, depending on a review by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rule Review. The committee could outright reject the rule, amend it further, send it back to APLS or accept it. 

The Alabama Library Association and Read Freely Alabama have called for a hearing by the joint committee, challenging the way the APLS board handled the public comment process and the economic impact of the rule on libraries.

Regardless of whether the rule becomes effective on July 15, Pack made it clear in her guidance that libraries will not have to have new policies in place by that date.

“APLS will start accepting revised policies beginning September 1, 2024,” Pack said in the email. “To receive your state aid for FY2025, you will need to have your updated policies submitted to APLS by June 30, 2025. State aid funds will be withheld until policies have been submitted. If policies are not submitted by June 30, 2025, state aid will be forfeited for FY2025.”

Because the rule could become effective July 15, there had been some confusion about whether libraries needed to have new policies in place before July 15. The Ozark-Dale library board defined “sexually explicit” and “inappropriate for minors” in their library policy last week in an effort to align their policies with the potential code changes.

There has also been some confusion about who is responsible for deeming what material is “inappropriate for minors.” ALGOP chair and APLS board member John Wahl previously told APR that it could be from the local library board or from APLS.

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But Pack said in her email that “APLS cannot determine what is appropriate or inappropriate and where items should be shelved.”

“You and your board must decide what’s appropriate based on your community’s needs,” Pack said. “It is imperative that your board support and defend library acquisitions and policies.”

Pack cautioned that only APLS board chair Ron Snider is the spokesperson for the board, which speaks as a whole, and said “confusion exists when other Executive Board members express their personal opinions to news outlets.”

Pack also warned librarians that “newspapers and articles are not always accurate in their reporting.”

The email reveals that federal LSTA grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be delayed until Dec. 1 while IMLS reviews whether the agency remains eligible to receive federal funds with the new code changes.

“Without additional funding from IMLS to the state of Alabama, there will be detrimental impact to APLS’ ability to function,” Pack said.

APLS historically receives approximately $3 million in federal funding, with more than $1 million of that funding being distributed to local libraries through competitive grants.

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Libraries will have to be in compliance with state aid requirements in order to receive LSTA funds.

Jessica Hayes, advocacy coordinator for the Alabama Library Association, said the guidance is appreciated, but does not negate their issues with the new code.

“The rules are sill using such vague and over-broad terminology—thesis why we are challenging the rules with the Legislative Council,” Hayes said. “If they don’t make changes, local library boards are going to gain an immense amount of power to control what information their communities can and cannot access.”

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

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Libraries will still receive state aid through the fiscal year, allowing about three months to draft policies aligning with the code changes.

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