County commissioners sign Clean Up Alabama petition regarding libraries

(Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash)

CULLMAN, Ala. – While the Cullman County Commission has not taken an official stance on the issue, Chairman Jeff Clemons, and all four county commissioners – Garry Marchman, Kerry Watson, Kelly Duke and Corey Freeman – this week signed the Clean Up Alabama petition calling for the Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) to withdraw from the American Library Association (ALA).

Clean Up Alabama’s website shows the phrases: “Remove inappropriate material,” “Ensure only age-appropriate material is accessible to minors,” “Withdraw from The American Library Association,” and “End our association, participation, and use of the far left marxist organization that is the American Library Association.”

All of the commissioners expressed concerns about “age-appropriate materials in libraries and the role of parents in guiding their children’s reading choices.”

Shirley Arnette, a former councilwoman for the Town of South Vinemont, brought the petition to the commissioner’s attention and asked for their support.

“Parents who take their children to the library, they need to know that there are books that they need to look at before their child reads it,” she said. “There may be something that the parents would not like for them to see or they’re not ready to discuss.”

Said Clemons, “I think the main thing is just making sure that any explicit material isn’t in a place that children can easily access it, so parents have the opportunity to make choices.”

Clemons noted that the removal of libraries from the ALA seemed to be a significant point of concern, with some believing the association has become “more activist than advocate.”

“While the library receives federal funding and mandates certain categories of books that you have to carry, I also feel like it should be the parent’s choice whether their children are subjected to certain materials and beliefs until that child’s of an appropriate age to make their own life choice,” Freeman said.

“I believe parents have the right to know what books are available in our libraries for their children in order to make sure those books are age appropriate for them and to make sure that all the books in our libraries are placed in their proper, age-appropriate area,” said Watson.

Duke’s comments echoed the sentiments of his fellow commissioners’. “We’re not trying to censor books or anything like that,” he said, “but we want to make sure that each parent has all the information they need to make the proper decision for their children.”

Marchman said, “They’re trying to politicize what we’re doing at the library a little bit, and that’s the wrong thing. That shouldn’t be politicized. I don’t believe we should have a single book in that library, period, that covers anything to deal with LGBT, and I know that’s a strong statement. I’m not going to say it’s OK and that we’re censoring; you can take your censorship somewhere else. If you think we’re censoring, then let’s vote on it and see if we’re censoring.”

More on the Clean Up Alabama petition

The Clean Up Alabama petition was started by Prattville mom Hannah Rees, who said, “This movement with parents in Clean Up Alabama is about protecting our children from radical gender ideology, sexuality and highly explicit content for children. We believe that explicit materials should not be funded by tax-paying dollars.”

She continued, “Censorship has to do with not allowing the availability of materials. These materials are available everywhere and anywhere you want to get them. What we’re saying is tax-paying dollars should not fund sexually explicit content for kids and all inappropriate content for kids.”

Rees said she and her fellow advocates are hopeful that their efforts will result in changes that they believe better align with their community’s values.

The petition will be presented to the APLS in Montgomery on Wednesday, Sept. 13.


CBS 42 reported last month, “The Alabama Public Library Service Board voted earlier this month to request an opinion from Attorney General Steve Marshall’s Office, asking what authority the board has to regulate content in local libraries.

“APLS Board Director Nancy Pack said the board does not have any official ties with the American Library Association nor do they receive funding from them.

“Pack said in a statement about the ongoing issue: ‘Public Libraries strive for neutrality and providing equal access to reliable information with differing viewpoints. Censorship in libraries presents a complex challenge as we aim to uphold the freedom of thought and provide a diverse range of perspectives for Alabamians, while also respecting community values and sensitivities. Finding that right balance between ensuring access to information and addressing various concerns is a critical endeavor.’”


The ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world. Its website says, “Founded on October 6, 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the mission of ALA 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.’”

According to the Associated Press, “The nonprofit American Library Association denies having a political agenda, saying it has always been nonpartisan.”

The AP reported, “This summer, the state libraries in Montana, Missouri and Texas and the local library in Midland, Texas, announced they’re leaving the ALA, with possibly more to come. Right-wing lawmakers in at least nine other states — Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming — demand similar action.”

Gov. Kay Ivey

On Sept. 1, Governor Kay Ivey sent a letter to Pack “to express concern and to seek answers about the environment our Alabama libraries are providing to families and children.”

The letter said, in part, “Rather than supporting Alabama families, out-of-state library groups like the American Library Association appear to be making the situation worse. The ALA’s “Library Bill of Rights” -which the Alabama Public Library Service has adopted as its own – says that a person’s library use should not be abridged because of ‘age.’ Not to be misunderstood, the ALA’s website regarding youth access to library resources clarifies that ‘like adults, children and teens have the right to find the information they choose,’ so libraries must not ‘discriminate’ based on ‘age.’ Even more startling, the Library Bill of Rights further provides that all people, regardless of age, “possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use’ – a statement that appears to directly contravene Alabama’s law giving parents access to their children’s library records.”

Cullman County Public Library System

Cullman County Public Library System Director Josie Harrington said she views the petition and the move to remove Alabama libraries from the ALA as problematic. She stressed the myriad benefits provided by both the Alabama Library Association and the ALA, which she said offer guidance, resources, professional support, educational opportunities and technical assistance to public libraries.

“To be removed from that is to cost your public library so many resources,” she cautioned. “The library is a place for resources, and all public libraries are largely very connected to one another, which is what allows us to help each other out and to better all of our communities.”

She continued, “I think that there is a lot of misleading information out there about this petition. I would welcome anyone to come and read these materials themselves to really take a look at the entirety of the content and judge for themselves whether or not it’s appropriate for their own children or themselves. The library is not there to guide your children individually. We are just providing a wealth of resources should they need any of them.”

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