Conservatives call on PA to leave American Library Association

The Philadelphia City Institute Library.
The Philadelphia City Institute Library. (Photo by Jason Villemez)

This past July, conservative members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives started to call on the state to leave the American Library Association (ALA). These calls came as conservatives in nine other states called on their respective libraries to withdraw from the organization over the election of its new president, Emily Drabinski.

This is due to Drabinski describing herself as a “Marxist lesbian” in a deleted Twitter post after she was elected in April 2022. 

According to ABC27, members of the Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus believe the content the ALA recommends to schools will reflect Drabinski’s personal beliefs. 

“This is about who’s leading your association. You know that’s her vision, her ideology, that’s her leanings and tendencies,” Representative Dawn Keefer, a Republican and Freedom Caucus member, told ABC27. 

Ironically the caucus is also trying to keep books that don’t align with its members’ beliefs out of schools.

The Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP) has no plans to heed these calls to leave the ALA. 

“This is truly an unprecedented time for libraries. Attempted book bans are on the rise especially among titles written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Kelly Richards, the president and director of FLP. 

“Also, members of our profession are dealing with coordinated book-banning campaigns and [in] some cases, personal harassment from those seeking to censor certain reading material,” he continued. 

Richards described the ALA to PGN as “the strong advocate we need in helping protect the right to read.”

He explained that the library system used some of the ALA’s resources during the summer when Moms For Liberty, a right-wing activist group, planned to protest some of the library’s Pride events. 

Despite the push for the state to leave the ALA from conservatives, Richards doesn’t think it will.

“I can’t imagine a great state like ours leaving the American Library Association, which is committed to equitable access to knowledge, social justice and intellectual freedom. I just don’t see that happening,” he said. 

However if it were to happen, he stated that the FLP will remain supportive of the organization. 

Richards also spoke on the library’s stance on book banning, saying, “The Free Library is opposed to any efforts to ban books. We believe individuals and parents should be allowed to make the decision about what they can read and believe.”

State libraries in Montana, Missouri and Texas and the local library in Midland, Texas have all announced their exit from the ALA, with potentially more to come. In addition to Pennsylvania, right-wing lawmakers in Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming have also demanded a similar action.