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State library group may leave American Library Assn. over ‘Marxist lesbian’ president

The Montana State Library Commission is pondering whether to leave the American Library Association because its new president is a “self-proclaimed Marxist” and lesbian.

Emily Drabinski had proudly proclaimed in April of last year “I just cannot believe that a Marxist lesbian who believes that collective power is possible to build and can be wielded for a better world is the president-elect of @ALALibrary.”

Drabinski’s campaign for the ALA presidency had focused on left-wing causes such as “unchecked climate change, class war, white supremacy, and imperialism,” and she proposed a “Green New Deal for libraries.”

The Daily Montanan reports “right-wing media outlets zeroed in” on Drabinski’s now-deleted tweet (pictured) over the last year and that “some” of them considered it “to be evidence of a false narrative they have pushed surrounding libraries and grooming children.”

In November, Drabinski said she posted the tweet “into the middle of an extremely fractured society, one where we have the rise of an extremist right.” Nevertheless, she added “it’s very much who I am and shapes a lot of how I think about social change.”

She also said she did not want any government interference regarding what materials can be made available in public libraries: “If your kid checks out something you don’t want them to read, that’s between you and your child and the way that you’re parenting.”

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Near the end of last month, MSLC Commissioner Tom Burnett said his group should consider a withdraw from the ALA in the coming weeks.

Fellow commissioner Tammy Hall backed Burnett on the possible withdrawal, saying Drabinski’s comments were “very disturbing, very disturbing.”

Montana State Librarian Jennie Stapp, also siding with Burnett, said she had “personal conversations” with Drabinski about the remarks, telling her they were “impacting libraries around the country and the relationship with the American Library Association to libraries.”

On July 6, James Lindsay noted on Twitter that Drabinski had a paper published in Library Quarterly a decade ago titled “Queering the Catalog.” In it, she says “[library] cataloging decisions that are framed as objective and neutral are always ideological”:

Queer theory invites a shift in responsibility from catalogers, positioned to offer functional solutions, to public services librarians, who can teach patrons to dialogically engage the catalog as a complex and biased text, just as critical catalogers do. … queer theory is interested in how [gay and lesbian] identities come discursively and socially into being and the kind of work they do in the world. Lesbian and gay studies is concerned with what homosexuality is. Queer theory is concerned with what homosexuality does.

Despite Drabinski’s own words, Daily Montanan Editor-in-Chief Darrell Ehrlick, an “award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher,” chided the Montana commission’s concerns saying it assumes “that being a lesbian or Marxist somehow will guide [Drabinski’s] every action.”

Ehrlick also invoked the Red Scare: “If libraries are no longer the space in which a Marxist can at least safely espouse her views, then democracy is doomed.”

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IMAGES: CUNY Graduate Center; Emily Drabinski/Twitter via Internet Archive

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.