Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

State

APLS board member misrepresented code changes to local library director

Minton said the library would need to remove books promoting transgenderism in order to comply with new state aid requirements.

APLS board member Amy Minton, left, and Alexandria Sims, right.
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Amy Minton walked into the Hokes Bluff Public Library two weeks ago with a $10,000 check and a smile—and a warning that the library could lose state and county funding.

Minton first came on the radar of Etowah County libraries last year when she began challenging books—30 in all—at the Gadsden Public Library. Her primary concern has been books promoting the concept that gender identity can differ from biological sex.

Over the past few months, Minton has risen to power first with an appointment by Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, to the Etowah County Library Committee in November 2023. 

In February, she gained a seat with much more power over library funding when Gov. Kay Ivey appointed her to serve as a board member on the Alabama Public Library Service Executive Board.

It was in her capacity as a member of the Etowah County Library Committee that Minton arrived at Hokes Bluff to distribute a $10,000 check that Etowah libraries apply for every spring from the committee.

But after a photo op with director Alexandria Sims, the conversation turned to changes likely to be finalized to the APLS administrative code and what it might mean for Hokes Bluff library’s funding.

Sims told APR that Minton had paperwork she seemed to be referring to, and that the two of them went to Sims’ office to discuss the changes.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

“The conversation centered around not having books including activities that would be illegal in the state of Alabama,” Sims said. “She specifically referred to transgender care for minors that was illegal in the state of Alabama.”

Sims later asked Minton for clarification whether those kinds of books would need to be moved to the adult section, or removed entirely.

“She clarified those books need to be completely weeded, totally removed,” Sims said.

While Minton had proposed an amendment to the code changes that would have kept books dealing with “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” out of sections for minors, that language did not make the final version of the code changes.

Instead, the code says libraries cannot have books with “sexually explicit” content or other content “deemed inappropriate for minors” in areas designated for minors. The rules did not clearly indicate who would be responsible for “deeming” what material is “inappropriate,” but guidance sent from APLS director Nancy Pack to library directors Tuesday clarified that those definitions will be left to local library boards.

Minton told Sims that she had found that Hokes Bluff had many books that would need to be removed, and looked through the catalog with Sims in an attempt to find examples.

The pair struggled to find any books through the catalog, which Sims said Minton suggested looking for using terms such as “transgender” or nonbinary.”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

They finally did find one book: “Go Billy Go!: Being Yourself” by Wiley Blevins about a boy who wants to be a cheerleader. The book is recommended for age ranges 5 to 8 years old.

According to Sims, Minton said that is an example of a book that would need to be removed. More books that need to be removed could be found by clicking on a button that would lead to “similar books” in the catalog, Minton suggested.

For the small library of Hokes Bluff, it is actually Minton’s role on the county committee that threatens more in funding than even her state role.

A town of just 12 square miles, Hokes Bluff receives less than $5,000 in state aid, which she said is often used to keep the lights on. The county gives the library about $28,000 each year, which goes toward materials.

Minton told Sims that if the library did not comply with state aid requirements, which she had already misrepresented, the county committee would also likely withhold funding.

Les Anderson, the senior member of the committee, told APR that’s not the case.

“I told the committee, the law that established our committee, the only thing we can do is to distribute funds from a special fund created back in the late ‘80s,” Anderson said. “Our committee gets 1 percent of that 1-cent sales tax and we distribute that to libraries … We cannot provide funding for salaries—that’s the only thing we can withhold funds from. IN terms of what APLS is doing, APLS should be the one to address those problems. It’s not our job to be involved in that process.”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Anderson said he doesn’t see any withholding of funding from the committee ever happening.

Minutes from the committee’s lone meeting in May reflect Anderson’s account of Minton bringing forward the possibility of withholding funds, and his explanation of the committee’s role in simply distributing those funds.

Minton didn’t just stop at Hokes Bluff, she handed out checks to each of the public libraries funded by the committee. At many of those libraries, the directors said Minton did not go into detail about APLS code changes. Minton did talk about APLS code changes previously at the Attalla library, with director Tina Brooks saying Minton brought forward similar concerns although she could not remember specifics.

APR contacted Minton for comment on this story but did not receive a response.

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

More from APR

State

As the Alabama Public Library Service works to create its own library bill of rights, the Alabama Library Association beat them to the punch.

News

An LGBTQ book event faced backlash and threats online, leading the venue Oyster City to cancel.

Legislature

A bill that could have led to the arrest of librarians narrowly missed becoming law last session, but sponsors have already filed a follow-up.

Local news

Two council members made clear Monday night that they have no interest in pulling funding.