Alabama Public Libraries cuts ties with American Library Association

Published 2:06 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

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’s libraries.

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’re coming from in the current climate,” Pearcey said. “As a parent myself, I understand, and we’re 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.”

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Governor Kay Ivey raised concerns 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. 

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 organization’s approach to sexually explicit content.

Becky Nichols, Director of the Dallas County Public Library, noted that the library serving Selma and Dallas County has not received any complaints about inappropriate materials for children. She did, however, stress the importance of providing access to appropriate books at the right time to foster a love for reading.

“We are cautious about the materials we make available and how we categorize and display them where children have access,” Nichols said. “Reading is a vital link, and that link is only effective if children receive the right books at the right time to develop a love for books and eventually become more informed citizens. That being said, we serve a diverse community with diverse needs.”

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.