Political Crosswinds: The American Library Association’s Controversial Chapter

By FOCUS, a Leonine Business

The American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest nonprofit trade organization for libraries, is facing a growing tide of opposition following statements from its leadership and alleged associations.

Emily Drabinski stirred controversy with a since-deleted post on “X,” the website formerly known as Twitter, after her election in April 2022. In the post, she identified herself as a “Marxist lesbian” and expressed her excitement for the collective power she believes can forge a better world. Assuming the ALA presidency in July, for a one-year term, Drabinski articulated her vision to leverage the organization for socio-political transformation. This evoked concerns from several conservative groups and political figures regarding the association’s perceived ideological leanings.

Montana was the first to withdraw from the ALA on July 11, which quickly drew the attention of conservative media outlets nationwide, reports the Montana Free Press. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission followed suit; Rep. Brian Harrison, R-Waxahachie, announced the separation on August 17, specifically citing concerns over the ALA’s direction and the use of taxpayer funds for perceived “indoctrination,” reports The Texan.

Across the nation, Republican officials in several states, including Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wyoming, are also considering withdrawing from the ALA, reports NBC. These states are responding to concerns raised by their state Freedom Caucuses about the ALA’s leadership, its support for certain events and authors, and its alleged stance on certain issues.

Further escalating the controversy, U.S. Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Kevin Cramer, and Mike Braun penned a letter on July 28 demanding a suspension of the ALA’s federal funding. Their grievance revolved around allegations that the ALA was denying event space to the conservative Christian publisher, Brave Books. However, the library in question has since refuted this claim, reports News 19.

Despite the turbulence, the ALA remains steadfast in its support for Drabinski. They reinforced this in a recent post on “X,” emphasizing that the president’s personal views don’t dictate the association’s direction. Libraries have always been sanctuaries of knowledge and the ALA’s mission of providing unhindered access to information remains unwavering. Amid discussions of freedom of speech, censorship and institutional influence, the ALA’s journey may indicate the evolution of libraries as national political realms. FOCUS will continue to monitor changes to states’ affiliation with the ALA and the effect on libraries nationwide.