Alabama Public Libraries cuts ties with American Library Association

Published 4:49 pm Monday, February 26, 2024

By: Amy Lewis

The Alabama Public Library Service (ALPS) has decided not to renew its membership with the
American Library Association (ALA), citing concerns over allegations of promoting Marxism,
supporting the inclusion of sexual content in libraries, and discriminating against religious
organizations. This decision follows a period of intense scrutiny and debate surrounding the
state libraries.

According to Luverne Public Library Director Kathryn Tomlin, no impact is expected for
Crenshaw County patrons from the decision.

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“We have received no complaints about any books on our shelves,” Tomlin said. “I am not
aware of any impact the decision made by APLS will have on our library. We are not members
of the American Library Association.”

The decision comes on the heels of concerns raised by Governor Kay Ivey in October about the
need for more parental supervision within libraries, threatening a funding cut to public libraries if
changes were not implemented. This pressure, coupled with ongoing controversies, led to the
decision to sever ties with the ALA. However, individual local public libraries are still free to
manage their own ALA memberships.

Kevin Pearcey, Director of the Greenville-Butler County Library, said local staff have not
received any complaints about inappropriate materials but emphasized the importance of
balancing access with supervision.

“That was their decision, and I certainly understand where they are coming from in the current
climate”Pearcey said.  “As a parent myself, I understand, and we are very conscious of what we
put in front of children. We ask parents to supervise their children’s reading. I certainly want to
know what my children are reading.”

Three ALPS members voted to end the affiliation immediately, rather than waiting until March
when the current membership expires. The ALA offers grants and training to libraries
nationwide, providing $293,200 in grants to 36 Alabama libraries since 2021.

While the ALA states its mission is to “provide leadership for the development, promotion, and
improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to
enhance learning and ensure access to information for all, critics argue that the national
association has become a radical activist organization,” Alabama is among several states that have recently decided to leave the ALA, citing concerns about training, materials, and the organizationss approach to sexually explicit content.

The decision to leave the ALA reflects the complexities of balancing access to information with
concerns about age-appropriate content and reflects ongoing debates about the role of libraries
in shaping community values.