(NEW YORK)- PEN America, the National Coalition Against Censorship, Read Freely Alabama, and EveryLibrary today called on the Autauga-Prattville Library Board (AL) to reverse its new policy prohibiting all children’s and young adult books related to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and relevant issues.

The groups called the new policy discriminatory and urged the Prattville Library to uphold the freedom to read for all its patrons.

On February 8, the library enacted a new policy suspending the purchase of any children’s literature or young adult books that include “obscenity, sexual conduct, sexual intercourse, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender discordance.” Adult books that include those themes must be labeled with a red sticker.

“The Autauga-Prattville Public Library’s newly appointed board is making a mockery of freedom of expression,” said Kasey Meehan, Freedom to Read program director at PEN America. “We are alarmed to see the suppression of LGBTQ+ books within the library system, especially for young people who rely on the library’s free access to books to understand themselves and the world around them. And to stigmatize adult books that include sex or LGBTQ+ identities and themes gives lie to the idea that this is about protecting children. The library is for everyone – when access to books is prevented based on a narrow ideology, everyone loses.”

Lee Rowland, executive director, National Coalition Against Censorship said “Prattville’s efforts to narrow its library collections are not just a tragic loss for the community and the freedom to read — they are also discriminatory and unconstitutional. Other recent efforts to scrub libraries of valuable content that grapples with sex and gender have rightly been judged as sweeping violations of the First Amendment, and Prattville’s assault on the right to read should fare no differently.” 

A board member has resigned in protest, saying the board was engaging in censorship. Four  of the previous board members resigned last year after the county appointed new members without consultation with the current board. The county received 48 challenges last year to books in the collection, primarily with LGBTQ+ characters or themes.

Read Freely Alabama, a volunteer group of citizens that started in Prattville fighting these restrictions and censorship across Alabama, stated they would continue to advocate for all Prattville residents to be represented in their library regardless of political and ideological affiliation. “From day one, Alabamians in the most rural, red counties have fought back against these ideological extremists trying to censor our libraries. Many of us grew up poor, in marginalized communities and secretly closeted in these very towns, with the public library as the only way we could access books for free,” said the senior leadership team at Read Freely Alabama. “Prattville is ground zero for censorship in Alabama and continues to be an example of extremism run amok. But we will continue fighting.” 

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contacts: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057

Read Freely Alabama, [email protected], 334-354-7199