APLS administers state funds as provided by the State Legislature and federal funds as provided by the Library Services and Technology Act. The ultimate goal of the Alabama Public Library Service is to create a statewide network of libraries to provide quality library service to every individual in the state.
Origins of the Alabama Public Library Service can be traced back to 1901, when Dr. Thomas M. Owen, director of the Department of Archives and History, organized a unit to carry out extensive pioneer work in library services in the state. In 1907, the Alabama legislature responded to the urging of the State Library Association and the State Federation on Women’s Clubs to add library extension and legislative reference to the specified duties of the Department of Archives and History. Miss Frances Nimmo Green was placed in charge of this new division. When she resigned in 1911, library extension work with libraries declined and was soon discontinued, although the Department of Archives retained responsibility for that service. During the early years, the Department of Archives maintained a close contact with school libraries and prepared lists of recommended books for libraries.
In 1930, the Alabama Library Association raised enough money to match a Rosenwald grant that enabled the Association to hire a library field worker. A bill that provided a commission and continuation of services from the field worker passed the legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Bibb Graves. From 1932 to 1939, Alabama lacked library extension services. Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds made possible the establishment of a Public Library Division in the Department of Archives and History in 1939. Ms. Lois Rainer Green, head of the division, also served as director of the WPA statewide library project.
From 1939 to 1959, the Public Library Service Division was a division of the Alabama Archives and History with that agency receiving state aid for public library development since 1943. Prior to that date, the Public Library Services Division was mainly supported with WPA funds. When the WPA dissolved in 1943, the state took over the support of the work of the division and included a grant for state aid in its initial appropriation. The division used funding to encourage the organization and creation of regional libraries and to assist the development of new county libraries. According to the regulations in effect in 1950, new regional libraries received annual grants of $8,000 for purchase of books. These grants were available to new libraries for three years. To qualify for the grant, constituent counties needed to provide a minimum budget of $7,200 in local funds.
The Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) was established as a separate state agency in 1959. The core missions of the new agency were to assist and provide advice to all free public, regional, municipal, and county libraries; to encourage and assist all communities in the state which may propose the establishment of new public libraries; and to select and catalog books and provide other details of library management to aid in organizing libraries or assisting in the improvement of those already established.
Today, APLS provides leadership, resources, and programming to support Alabama public libraries in providing quality library service across the state. APLS is the state agency that serves public libraries in the 67 counties in Alabama and is empowered to advise all established public libraries and assist communities that may propose to establish public libraries. APLS provides direct library services to Alabama state employees to meet their work-related information needs to residents. APLS also serves Alabama residents with disabilities through the Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled. APLS is a network member of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS). The Regional Library is a free braille and talking book library service for people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or physical, perceptual or reading disability that prevents them from using regular print materials. The Regional Library circulates books and magazines in braille or audio formats that are instantly downloadable to a personal device or delivered by mail free of charge.