Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | Leave library policy to the professionals: Librarians

CW / Riley Thompson
Tuscaloosa Public Library located off of Jack Warner Parkway.

In Alabama’s most recent legislative period, representatives have begun targeting one of our most vital and vulnerable resources: public libraries. Since 2022, the number of books being contested and their spots on shelves have been up for debate, and the issue has only gotten worse. Alabama representatives are not letting up.

Now, not only are the books up for debate, but our librarians have also fallen under fire. Alabama’s Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act has always had a code section with an exemption for librarians, as long as the materials pursued “legitimate educational purposes.”

But with our legislature, these definitions change quickly. One day you’re allowed adequate access to artificially conceiving a child, and the next, nurses who are there to help you are scared of being slapped with a wrongful death lawsuit and spending years behind bars. Similarly, the code section that previously stated that librarians have nary a worry has been repealed!

Soon, librarians distributing “obscenity” or “material harmful to minors” will be at risk of $10,000 in fines or possibly a year of jail time. That is, until legislators change those definitions clearly stated in the code, which they already showed they wanted to do when they introduced House Bill 401, the “Drag Ban” bill, in 2023.

Soon, LGBTQ+ material could be considered “sexual conduct” in the eyes of the Alabama law, if legislators continue to take cues from Clean Up Alabama.

The first library to make drastic changes on its shelves is the Autauga-Prattville Public Library, whose reading room has become a war zone for challenged books. Initially the board, now consisting of members who could possibly be removed if their decisions are out of line with their city council and county commissioners, found its best plan of action to be removing or even destroying the books when patrons disagreed with the content.

Instead, a rule has passed that states no books shall be added to the collection that target demographics under the age of 17 while also including “obscenity, sexual conduct, sexual intercourse, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender discordance.” The Autauga-Prattville library board has stated that materials related to topics such as biology, human anatomy and religion are exempt from this rule, and, whether you believe them or not, that they are certainly not doing this based on race, nationality or political views.

Books containing such materials will now be marked with a red stripe, and new cards will be issued to minors to prohibit them from acquiring prohibited materials.

Clean Up Alabama, whose mission statement is “Tidying Up Alabama Libraries” has been at the helm of this misguided ship, deeply involving itself with the policy rewrite at the Prattville library as the ultimate test run for the most restricted library in the state. The organization’s beliefs range from keeping gender ideology out of public libraries to having the Alabama Public Library Service cut all ties with the American Library Association.

Clean Up Alabama is closely followed by and takes many cues from Moms for Liberty, who recently sent a letter to lawmakers urging even more action be taken in libraries.

Their demands include creating clear criteria for how books are shelved for different age groups and implementing software that would prohibit minors from checking out materials from above their stated age group. Both of these demands are entirely out of APLS’s control.

To further attempt to prove their point that libraries are overstepping, in their letter, Moms for Liberty claim they are in “a battle between parents who want to be the ones to teach their children at sex versus those who want the librarians to provide that role.” They reference a section of the ALA manual titled “Sex Education Materials in Libraries,” which states, “ALA affirms the right of youth to comprehensive, sex-related education, materials, programs, and referral services of the highest quality; affirms the active role of librarians in providing such; and urges librarians and library educators to reexamine existing policies and practices.”

The only way Moms for Liberty could have their demands met would be for APLS to disaffiliate from ALA, which would assuredly doom what freedoms our libraries have left at their disposal.

APLS does not manage the software used for checking out books and is not involved in establishing the criteria for what kinds of books different age groups can check out.

So who could do this for the libraries? Parents.

What if, instead of micromanaging our public libraries, which are already underfunded and now at risk of losing even more funding, we left the responsibility of monitoring what sort of content children are consuming up to their parents, their actual caretakers?

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