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Alabama library agency launches new book-flagging online portal

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Public Library Service has launched its new online portal that allows for parents, concerned citizens and organizations to flag specific books they deem inappropriate for children. 

Library Board members voted to create the new submission tool in September after mounting pressure from certain advocacy groups, lawmakers and Gov. Kay Ivey, all of whom called on the board to institute policies that would better restrict childrens’ access to explicit or controversial reading material.

The online portal requires those making submissions to include a book title, the specific page number of the alleged explicit or controversial content, as well as identifying information such as an address and phone number, and excludes out-of-state individuals or groups. The submissions will not be available for public viewing, and will instead be sent to all public library directors in the state to use at their own discretion.

Among the loudest voices calling for Alabama libraries to better screen reading material targeted toward children was Clean Up Alabama, a nonprofit organization that advocates for “tidying up Alabama libraries.” 

Lawmakers such as State House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, and Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, urged the Library  Board to address the matter, and suggested that state funding for libraries may be cut were the issue not resolved. Ivey weighed in on the matter as well, and in November, removed Virginia Doyle from the Library Board after she made comments criticizing lawmakers for threatening funding cuts.

Rep. Susan DuBose, R-Hoover, among those who pushed for explicit and controversial reading material to be removed from childrens’ sections of libraries, praised the release of the new online portal, but noted that room remained for improvement.

“I’d love to see it available to school libraries and parents, but as it is, it will help librarians to make more informed decisions, and I’m very appreciative to the board,” DuBose told Alabama Daily News Friday.

Another matter wrapped in the controversy is the Alabama library system’s affiliation with the American Library Association, something the aforementioned groups and lawmakers called to be ended.

The largest library association in the world, the ALA has come under fire recently from advocacy groups and Republican lawmakers nationwide for comments made by ALA President Emily Drabinski, who once described herself as a Marxist in a now-deleted social media post.

While the Library Board was set to vote on disassociating from the ALA in November, members ultimately voted to postpone the vote until January, with Library Board Director Nancy Pack, who originally opposed cutting ties with the ALA, said in an internal memo that she would support dissociation.

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