Gov. Ivey expresses concern about Alabama libraries
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WTVY) - Recently, statewide concerns have been raised about content available in public libraries.
Meetings in Shelby County about Pride Month displays in the children’s section and debates in Prattville about sexually explicit content sparked both residents and officials to come forward in other parts of the state.
Houston County Commission Chairman Brandon Shoupe issued a statement on August 22 telling the community they “are not going to fund a library that’s going to have explicit content targeted towards children.”
The following week, Ozark-Dale County Library hosted a meeting where people voiced concerns over books found in the young adult section.
These instances led to a letter from Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to the Director of Alabama Public Library Services, Dr. Nancy Pack, to “express concern—and to seek answers— about the environment our Alabama libraries are providing to families and children.”
Gov. Ivey’s letter begins by stating the importance of public libraries and the role they play in “fostering a love of reading that will improve our citizens’ lives and uplift our State’s communities.”
However, these recent reports called into question, according to Gov. Ivey, whether or not our libraries are fulfilling their mission. She cites the issue as “the exposure of children and youth to inappropriate, sexually suggestive materials without adequate means of parental supervision.”
The letter mentions a book at Foley Public Library called Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity, marketed to five-to-eight-year-olds. The Prattville Library, according to Gov. Ivey’s letter features a children’s book on preferred pronouns as well as a book on gender transition “targeted to children between four and eight years old.”
Most recent concerns suggest Ozark-Dale County Library’s young adult section contains the books The Mirror Season and Only Mostly Devasted which, according to Gov. Ivey’s letter, include graphic sex scenes.
After the August meeting at Ozark-Dale County Library, formal complaints were filed about those two books.
The Governor’s letter states“each of these books has been made freely available in the very part of the library where children and youth are most likely to browse.” She points to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, that states a person’s library use should not be hindered because of age and that adults, children, and teens have the right to find any information they choose.
Gov. Ivey believes ALA’s Library Bill of Rights contradicts Alabama law which gives parents access to their children’s library records.
She ends her letter with this list of questions:
1. What measures has the Alabama Public Library Service taken to ensure that local libraries are providing parents with means to supervise their children and youth before encountering age-inappropriate materials?
2. What role has the Library Service played in advising local libraries about screening inappropriate content in libraries or making determinations as to whether library content is inappropriate for children?
3. In the past year, has the Libary Service received any complaints from parents about the display of age-inappropriate materials? For each such complaint, please provide a summary of the complaint and the Library Service’s (or local library’s) response. Please also provide copies of any written correspondence in your possession concerning parents’ complaints about age-inappropriate materials.
4. To receive supplemental state library aid, local libraries must submit to the Library Service, among other things, written policies addressing such topics as “patrons,” “material selection,” and “special services groups.” To what extent do the written policies submitted by local libraries facilitate parental supervision over their children’s library browsing? Please provide examples of such policies submitted to the Library Service in support of a local library’s request for supplemental state aid.
5. Are you aware of any model library policies (from any jurisdiction) that support parental supervision of children and youth library browsing? If so, please provide examples. If not, please research the matter and provide a summary of your findings including examples.
6. What role have you or the Library Service played in advising local libraries about hosting events organized by concerned parents, including any events in Millbrooks or Madison?
7. Please provide an itemized account of how much money the Library Service has paid to the American Library Association over the past five years. For each expenditure, please explain the purpose of the expenditure and what benefit the Library Service received from it.
8. To what extent does the Alabama Public Library Services have existing policies or procedures that incorporate ALA rules or standards? Does the Library Service otherwise rely on ALA materials―or advise local libraries to rely on ALA materials―for any purpose (such as reading lists)? To the extent the Library Service encourages use of ALA suggested reading lists for children and youth, please describe what steps the Library Service takes to vet the lists for age appropriateness and to facilitate parents’ rights to guide their children in accessing these books.
9. What role does the ALA play in the operation or administration of local libraries? Are you aware of local library affiliations with the ALA? To what extent have local libraries adopted the ALA’s “Library Bill of Rights”?
Gov. Ivey said she is confident Alabama libraries can be improved and “for the sake of Alabama taxpayers and families, we simply must get this right.”
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