MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama Public Library Service Board unanimously approved a motion Wednesday aiming to address some concerns from parents who say certain books should not be in children’s sections.
The motion says the APLS will compile a list of books based on forms that parents submit and then give that list to local libraries to decide what to do with those books if they’re on the shelves.
It does not require local libraries to do anything, like remove books. The APLS may not have that authority. That’s why it requested an opinion from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall over what authority it does have to regulate local content.
Board member and ALGOP Chairman John Wahl brought the motion. He said the list will be sourced from parent submissions, including page numbers of the content in question.
“We rate movies. We rate video games,” Wahl said. “This is just one of those areas where we’re looking for a way to share with local libraries that there may be inappropriate material in books and flag it for them, so they have some guidance as they’re looking at their collections.”
The motion passed unanimously after being amended to say the form parents submit must include their name and address. Wahl said the next step is to create that form.
This conflict has played out in a handful of libraries statewide recently with some parents saying they’re concerned over sexually graphic excerpts and want those books moved to adult sections of the library.
“This has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community specifically,” said Hannah Rees, a Prattville mother and founder of “Clean Up Alabama.” This has to do with sexually explicit content and radical ideologies that are being promoted to young children, and that’s all it’s about.”
But others at the meeting say it is about more than that, and what starts with a list may eventually lead to censorship.
“They say it’s not about LGBTQ+ community, but how convenient is it that the majority of the books that they’re bringing up for explicit sexual content also contain LGBTQ+ content?” said Lauren Boone, a Prattville resident and member of the “Read Freely Alabama” group. I want everybody to remember what’s really going on here.”
Marshall said his office will examine the request for an opinion. He also weighed in on the issue.
“We need to make sure that our libraries are safe places for kids,” Marshall said. “We need to make sure that the content there is appropriate — that it’s age appropriate. Not only that, but that we have individuals serving on library boards the reflect the interest of that community, and my hope is that we’ll continue to be able to do that.”
It’s not clear when Marshall may release an opinion.
There were also three state lawmakers at the meeting, as well as a representative from the Alabama House Speaker’s Office.
Board members were handed letters from House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter and Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen urging the APLS to consider disassociating with the American Library Association and “help shield children across the state from content they clearly should not see, hear, or read until they mature.”
Part of Ledbetter’s letter also threatens funding for the agency if the APLS Board doesn’t make changes, writing: “If the issues at hand remain unresolved when lawmakers gather, I am confident they will use both their statutory and budgetary authority to help the APLS do its job and accomplish its mission.”
Stadthagen’s letter reads in part: “We stand ready, if necessary, to take action through legislation, our budgetary authority, or both, but you hold in your hands the opportunity to negate the need.”