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American Library Association: Florida joins conservative states, cuts ties with national library group

Conservatives in a growing number of states, including Alabama, Wyoming, Missouri, Texas and now Florida, have severed their affiliations with the ALA, in part because the group chose a new president , Emily Drabinski, who in 2022 tweeted that she was a “Marxist.” »

“I simply cannot believe that a Marxist lesbian who believes it is possible to build collective power and exercise it for a better world is the president-elect of @ALALibrary,” Drabinski said on social media after becoming president of the group. “I’m so excited about what we’re going to do together. Solidarity! And my mom is SO PROUD. I love you mom.”

She later deleted the tweet and was shocked by the backlash it received.

Conservatives also raised concerns about a library bill of rights from the association that opposes efforts to restrict access to books based on age, a failure in states that try to limit content available to students in schools, particularly regarding sexuality, gender and race. .

Officials with the Alabama Public Library Service, for example, earlier this month called for Drabinski’s removal and urged libraries to ignore the association’s policies in a memo also recommending the state remove his membership in the ALA. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission took similar action in August.

“Texas should be leading the fight against dangerous Marxist ideology – not subsidizing it,” wrote Texas Republican State Rep. Brian Harrison. on social networks at the time.

At the federal level, Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Kevin Cramer, and Mike Braun have criticized the ALA, calling for defunding the organization over allegations that conservative Christian publisher Brave Books was denied library space for events, claiming that were contested by the local library and association.

Florida’s decision against the ALA, meanwhile, receives less fanfare and public attention.

The Florida Department of State, which oversees the state’s Division of Libraries and Information Services, quietly announced in October that it would “not authorize associated grant project activities” this year. American Library Association and its affiliates, including state chapters.

The agency, led by DeSantis-appointed Secretary of State Cord Byrd, a former Republican state representative, did not comment on the rule. The ALA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“The decision follows increased scrutiny related to the use of public funds to support these organizations,” state officials said, according to a memo from the Florida Library Association, the state’s ALA chapter.

It is currently unclear how this rule will affect local libraries. Libraries pay for ALA membership which provides access to benefits such as discounts on professional development and education products.

“The FLA believes this limitation will harm the ability of Florida libraries to serve our residents,” Jenny Abdelnour, executive director of the Florida Library Association, wrote in an email sent to members surrounding the rule. Abdelnour declined to comment further on the policy change.

Ron DeSantis and Florida Republicans reshaped K-12 education in the state by adopting policies banning critical race theory in public schools and barring teachers from leading classroom discussions about gender identity or the sexual orientation of young students.

The governor was also heavily criticized for signing a bill that requires school libraries to remove books from shelves if the text sparks a complaint about its contents. The books remain out of circulation while educational institutions decide whether they are suitable for students.

As the state takes action against the ALA, library systems in at least three counties have already canceled their memberships in the organization.

Most recently, Collier County commissioners voted unanimously to immediately leave the association, joining Citrus and Hernando counties.

The same debate played out across the country, when one speaker encouraged Collier commissioners to drop the county’s membership, saying the ALA was promoting gay and sexually explicit books to children. Yet another, a librarian at a local Catholic school who is an ALA member, said she was “appalled” by the comments, saying the organization was helpful and professional.

Collier pays about $1,600 a year to be an ALA member, a fee that allows library staff to attend conferences and seminars, as well as discounted rates on some library materials, according to the local WGCU, which reported on the county commission meeting.

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