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Alabama Library Board member removed by Ivey after publicly criticizing budget cut threats

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Shortly after criticizing lawmaker’s threats to cut funding to public libraries, Alabama Public Library Service Board member Virginia Doyle was removed from her position by Gov. Kay Ivey, her spokesperson confirmed.

On Nov. 16, the APLS Board was scheduled to vote on terminating its relationship with the American Library Association, something the board has been under pressure to do from several Republican lawmakers and nonprofit organizations who argue the ALA promotes inappropriate reading material to children.

Among those lawmakers were House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, and Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, who both suggested that were the issue involving inappropriate reading material not resolved, the Legislature may take action. Other lawmakers were more transparent in what that action might look like, with Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, predicting libraries would lose state funding.

During the APLS meeting, Doyle made her position clear that she vehemently opposed threats to cut funding for public libraries, calling them “ridiculous.”

“I don’t know who got to the state legislators and the governor’s office and (had) them threaten to take our budget away from us, (but) it’s just wrong,” Doyle said during last week’s meeting.

“We have libraries that struggle, and to take the $1.31 per capita away from them, considering the money they spend… they probably go to a show in Paris and spend more money than most (libraries) get in a year’s time, I mean it’s ridiculous.”

Furthermore, Doyle told Alabama Daily News after the meeting that in her 30 years of on-and-off service with the APLS Board, the APLS’s relationship with the AMA had never once been an issue.

On Friday, Mike Lewis with the Governor’s Office confirmed to ADN that Doyle had in fact been removed from her position following the meeting.

“After last week’s meeting of the Executive Board of the Alabama Public Library Service, Governor Ivey decided to remove Virginia Doyle from her position as a board member,” Lewis said on Friday. “Gov. Ivey appreciates her service to the State.”

Doyle’s removal was first reported by Alabama Political Reporter.

Both APLS Director Nancy Pack and APLS Board member John Wahl declined to publicly comment on the matter, as did the APLS communications staff. ADN made multiple attempts to contact Doyle, who as of Friday, has not responded.

While Doyle was the only APLS Board member to specifically criticize lawmakers for threatening to cut funding for public libraries, other board members did not mince words in decrying the controversy in general.

“They have degraded the professional librarian; we are the ones that are trained to do library services, we are the ones who work hard in the field,” said Pack on Nov. 16, speaking of the overall controversy surrounding Alabama libraries.

“My degree has been degraded down to nothing; they have no respect for the degree I’ve received, nor for any other public librarian in this state, and to me, that is awful.”

Alabama has around 220 public libraries across the state that receive state funding. While state funding makes up as little as 4% for some libraries serving large communities, state funding makes up a substantial portion of revenue for libraries serving smaller communities.

Of Alabama’s 220 public libraries, around 130 of them serve communities of less than 10,000 people, 77 of which serve less than 5,000, according to APLS Board Chair Ronald Snider.

The APLS Board ultimately decided to delay the vote to cut ties with the ALA until January. Pack and others have already said they would vote in favor of disassociating from the ALA, but whether all members follow through in January remains to be seen.

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