The South Carolina State Library (SCSL) has ended its affiliation with the American Library Association (ALA), citing political bias. This decision came after the ALA elected Emily Drabinski, who has publicly identified herself as a “Marxist lesbian,” to lead the organization in 2022. Drabinski expressed her intent to use her position to explore the effects of unchecked climate change, class warfare, white supremacy, and imperialism.
Leesa M. Aiken, the director of SCSL, criticized the ALA for deviating from its central mission of serving all people. She stated, “Guidance which has been provided by ALA concerning book bans, and handling difficult situations locally have quite frankly been tone-deaf and show a lack of understanding of what is happening in the field.”
Previously, the Montana State Library Commission also severed its ties with the ALA, stating that their oath of office forbade association with an organization led by a Marxist.
One of the contentious issues involves ALA’s efforts to counter legislation that restricts librarians from distributing explicit materials to minors. The ALA argues such laws hinder librarians’ ability to provide diverse materials to community readers. It uses an “adverse library legislation tracker” to monitor and oppose these laws, including ones seeking to protect parents’ rights.
Aiken urged the ALA to fulfill its professional responsibility to provide resources that libraries and librarians can use to serve their patrons. She expressed hope that the termination of membership will prompt the ALA to recommit to its mission of enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all.
At a recent ALA conference, Dr. Shannon M. Oltmann, an Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky, argued that books with explicit content could be valuable for children. She stated, “I don’t want people to get caught up in definitions of pornography definitions, especially definitions that say anything explicit or detailed should not be allowed. Sometimes those things are really valuable to students or other patrons.”
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, a director at the ALA, expressed concern over the changing perception of libraries. She said, “This effort to change what libraries are, or even just take libraries away from communities, I think, is part of a larger effort to diminish the public good, to take away those information resources from individuals and really limit their opportunity to have the kinds of resources that a community hub, like a public library, provides.”
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