The people's voice of reason

National groups accuse Alabama library of censorship

The National Coalition of Censorship, Read Freely Alabama, and EveryLibrary released a statement recently calling for the new Autauga-Prattville Library Board (AL) to reverse its new policy prohibiting all children's and young adult books related to "sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and relevant issues."

The out of state groups called the new policy discriminatory and urged the Prattville Library to uphold the freedom to read for all its patrons.

The groups' statement was in response to a February 8 decision by the library board to enact a new policy suspending the purchase of any children's literature or young adult books that include "obscenity, sexual conduct, sexual intercourse, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender discordance."

The board also voted to require that any books in the adult section that include those themes must be labeled with a red sticker.

Kasey Meehan is the Freedom to Read program director at PEN America.

"The Autauga-Prattville Public Library's newly appointed board is making a mockery of freedom of expression," said Director Meehan in a statement. "We are alarmed to see the suppression of LGBTQ+ books within the library system, especially for young people who rely on the library's free access to books to understand themselves and the world around them. And to stigmatize adult books that include sex or LGBTQ+ identities and themes gives lie to the idea that this is about protecting children. The library is for everyone – when access to books is prevented based on a narrow ideology, everyone loses."

Lee Rowland is the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship.

"Prattville's efforts to narrow its library collections are not just a tragic loss for the community and the freedom to read - they are also discriminatory and unconstitutional," said Rowland. "Other recent efforts to scrub libraries of valuable content that grapples with sex and gender have rightly been judged as sweeping violations of the First Amendment, and Prattville's assault on the right to read should fare no differently."

One of the previous regime's board members resigned in protest of the decision, saying the board was engaging in censorship. Four of the previous board members resigned last year after the county appointed new members without consultation with the current board.

The Alabama Senate has advanced controversial legislation that would make it easier for local governments to remove library members that go rogue in the future. Senate Bill 10 is sponsored by State Senator Chris Elliott (R-Daphne).

ay, the Alabama Senate passed legislation allowing local city councils and county commissions to remove members of their local library boards. Senate Bill 10 is sponsored by State Senator Chris Elliott (R-Josephine).

"Local library boards, once they are appointed, are not expressly allowed to be removed by their local appointing authority," Sen. Elliott explained on the Senate floor. "We ought to leave it to the local city councils and the local county commissions who made the appointment ought to be able to unmake the appointment and that is what this bill does."

Libraries have generated a lot of controversy over the past year regarding the inclusion of controversial books in the children's section promoting alternative sexual lifestyles, gender transitioning, and promoting Marxism.

Autauga county received 48 challenges last year to books in the collection, primarily with LGBTQ+ characters or themes.

A liberal group, Read Freely Alabama, that started in Prattville is fighting these new rules.

"From day one, Alabamians in the most rural, red counties have fought back against these ideological extremists trying to censor our libraries," Reed Freely said in a statement. "Many of us grew up poor, in marginalized communities and secretly closeted in these very towns, with the public library as the only way we could access books for free. Prattville is ground zero for censorship in Alabama and continues to be an example of extremism run amok. But we will continue fighting."

The Autauga County Republican Party, Moms for Liberty, and other conservative groups were outraged last year when Prattville parents discovered books written towards small children about gender transitioning and alternative sexual activities – many of them with graphic illustrations. The library board in place at that time dismissed the parents' concerns about the books being placed in prominent places within the children's section of the library. This ignited a political firestorm that ultimately led to changes on the board and the State of Alabama leaving the American Library Service.

This also led to, at Governor Kay Ivey's urging, the creation of a mechanism where parents and other concerned citizens can challenge the age appropriateness of certain books being in public libraries. The 48 books flagged by the community in Autauga County being just some of the titles that have been cited statewide.

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