The new head of the American Library Association (ALA) weighed in on conservative efforts to remove kids’ books with sexually-graphic LGBTQ themes from public libraries, calling these efforts “attacks on children.”
ALA president Emily Drabinski spoke on the New York Times podcast “The Ezra Klein Show” Tuesday with guest host Tressie McMillan Cottom about the current debate over what the left has deemed conservative book bans. She also commented about various U.S. states looking to leave the ALA over Drabinski’s openly progressive politics.
The Montana State Library Commission voted in July to withdraw from the American Library Association after Drabinski posted a tweet celebrating her election as president of the ALA last year.
Drabinski’s tweet read, “Hey, I 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.”
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This post prompted the Montana commission to vote 5-1 to leave the larger system, citing its opposition to “Marxist ideologies.”
Before Drabinski addressed Montana’s exit on the podcast, she blasted conservatives for pushing to have radical books removed from public libraries and schools across the U.S.
McMillan Cottom prompted Drabinski with a reference to the ALA president’s previous statement that “children are people who deserve private reading lives,” and mentioned that children don’t seem to have a place in the current debate their parents are having over these books.
The ALA president responded by expressing her belief that children’s choice in reading material should be respected and that conservative parents’ efforts are not attacks on books but “attacks on children.”
She stated, “And one of the things that makes me quite proud is the commitment that we have to children as people who can read. I have a child of my own. When everyone’s like, ‘Parents should only be able to control what their children read,’ I’m like, ‘Do you have a child? Have you met a child?’”
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“But I think it comes down to respect for individual people and their right to their own imagination and the sovereignty of their own minds,” Drabinski added, before saying, “And attacks on libraries right now are shaped and framed as attacks on books. But I think we all know they’re attacks on people and attacks on children.”
The two then spoke about Montana’s divorce from the ALA and other states like Wyoming, Georgia and Mississippi looking to the do same.
Drabinski told McMillan Cottom, “This is unprecedented, and it is extraordinarily painful — and the attacks on libraries and individual librarians, to see those intensify, and to see those attacks be directed at institutions that would protect them, that represent them, that they are a part of.”
She added, “And so to have this politicization of our role get in the way of that work, for me, is the most painful part of this experience.”
The ALA president did express regret for the tweet that caused the rift between the state and national library system.
“I just wish I could go back in time and push that tweet right back in the bottle because it was an excited utterance for me and my friends,” she said. “And to forget for a moment that I was in the public square was regrettable.”
Making it personal, she added, “Yeah, I’m just a person, you know. I’ve got a kid in high school. I’m worried about him. Yeah, it’s been tough. And I think all I want to do is make good on the promise of the ALA for American librarians and the communities we serve. And to have this stand in the way of that has been a devastation, for sure.”
The ALA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Drabinski’s interview.
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