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Library agency director: Content is local decision

Responding to recent questions and concerns about books available to children and teens at local libraries, the executive director of the Alabama Public Library Service said content decisions are made at the local level.

In the most recent episode of Capitol Journal, Nancy Pack stressed the need for parental involvement in children’s reading choices and said what’s deemed inappropriate for one child may be appropriate for another.

“The local level decides what materials go into their collection and it is the local libraries that set the policies for the viewing — where they locate the materials,” Pack told Capitol Journal’s Todd Stacy.
“… I think there is the parental guidance needed in libraries, where parents decide what is appropriate for their child to read.”

The Alabama Public Library Service is a state-funded agency that provides resources, training and long-range planning to local libraries. It does not make content decisions for them, Pack said. Neither does the American Library Association.

She said questions about censorship in public libraries are not new.

Early this month, Gov. Kay Ivey sent Pack a letter expressing concern “about the environment our Alabama libraries are providing to families and children.” She cited recent examples that have raised concern in local communities.

“According to reports, the children’s section of the Foley Public Library has featured a book called ‘Who are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity,’ which is marketed to 5-to 8-year olds for “understanding and celebrating the gender diversity that surrounds us,” Ivey wrote.

“The Prattville Public Library’s toddler and children’s section, meanwhile, has reportedly featured ‘The Pronoun Book,’ a board book for 3-year olds to learn about ‘preferred pronouns,’ and ‘If You’re A Kid Like Gavin,’ which is a self- proclaimed story about “gender transition” targeted at children between 4 and 8 years old. Most recently, it has come to light that the Ozark Dale County Library’s young adult section- which serves library patrons as young as 12 and 13 years old has featured ‘The Mirror Season’ and ‘Only Mostly Devastated,’ both of which feature graphic sex scenes.”

Ivey asked Pack to respond by Wednesday to several questions, including, what measures the agency has taken to ensure that local libraries are providing parents with means to supervise their children and youth before encountering age-inappropriate materials and what role it plays in advising libraries about screening inappropriate content.

Pack is in the process of responding to that letter. She said she agrees with Ivey that libraries need to foster supportive learning environments for young readers. She also said children want to see themselves and their families represented in what they read.

“You have children who want to see their family,” she said. “You see, in most children’s books, you see a mom, a dad and children. You see racially mixed families and different children … who have step brothers and sisters who are a different nationality as them. But when you get down to the gay and lesbian books, there’s not a whole lot of them out there that show two moms or two dads and the child. That child wants to see their family represented like in all these other books. You know, you have mom and dad and children here. Why aren’t my two moms or my two dads represented like that?”

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