Self-Described ‘Marxist Lesbian’ Elected Next President of American Library Association

The same American Library Association (ALA) that promotes Drag Queen Story Hours for young children and has bestowed awards on books containing explicit descriptions of sexual behavior for children as young as 12 years old, has now elected a self-described “Marxist lesbian” as its next president.

Idaho native Emily Drabinski, interim chief librarian at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, posted to Twitter following her victorious election bid she “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” ALA.”

Drabinski ran her campaign for ALA president on “collective power” and “public good.”

“So many of us find ourselves at the ends of our worlds,” she said. “The consequences of decades of unchecked climate change, class war, white supremacy, and imperialism have led us here.”

“If we want a world that includes public goods like the library, we must organize our collective power and wield it,” she said, adding:

Social and economic justice and racial equity requires that we make a material difference in the lives of library workers and patrons who have for too long been denied power and opportunity on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, national origin, spoken language, and disability. As ALA president, I will direct resources and opportunities to a diverse cross section of the association and advance a public agenda that puts organizing for justice at the center of library work.

Joy Pullmann at The Federalist drew attention to one reason why Americans should not dismiss having a self-described “Marxist” at the helm of the ALA:

ALA’s approximately 54,000 members include librarians, libraries, library graduate schools, members of library boards and associations, and library students. The vast majority of its membership fees, therefore, are provided by taxpayer funds.

Drabinski often tweets in support of labor unions, and she touted the endorsement she received by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

“In the face of increasing challenges to school library books and teachers’ curricula, we need a strong American Library Association defending free inquiry in our shared pursuit of the public good,” Weingarten said. “Emily Drabinski knows how to organize and mobilize on behalf of library workers and our communities.”

ALA colleague April M. Hathcock wrote in her statement of endorsement for Drabinski, “I so value Emily’s work in intentionally bringing a class, labor, and queer consciousness to her efforts as an anti-racist ally.”

Not all librarians are happy about Drabinksi’s victory:

In a television interview with KTVB 7, Drabinski said she found outrage by parents over sexually explicit books in school libraries and the subsequent cutting of the Idaho library system’s budget by $3.8 million as “scary”:

I think there are, it’s like concerted political efforts to, to sort of push this sort of story about what libraries do, which seems very, you know, it’s anathema to what libraries actually do, that we are sort of pushing pornographic materials on our patrons and it’s really not, not what we do at all … there’s no big library agenda.

The Associated Press noted in September that the books Gender Queer, which “contains explicit illustrations of oral sex and masturbation,” and Lawn Boy, which “contains graphic descriptions of sex between men and children,” were both winners of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, a title bestowed on “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”

Both these books have been a focus of outrage by parents and community members as they sit on shelves of middle and high school libraries.

Last July, Drabinski also conducted a presentation titled “Teaching the Radical Catalog,” in which she referred to the idea of introducing multiple gender identities into the library catalog system as part of “critical thinking.”

At one point during the presentation, she laments that “heterosexuality is not named, but implied,” because “it is the norm that does not need to identify itself and against which everything else must be understood and defined.”

Drabinski appears to see herself as someone who will attempt to change this view of sexuality.

In her personal web page for her election bid, it is clear Drabinski views parents’ recent attempts to gain transparency about the books to which their children have access as “attacks.”

“From organized attacks on library funding to attempts to ban books to state bans on what can and can’t be taught in the classroom, all of us face pressures that get in the way of our core missions,” she stated, touting her abilities to direct change.

“How will I make that happen? Let’s find out,” she continued. “Remember: there are more of us than there are of them, especially when we work together.”

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Emily Drabinski” by Emily Drabinski. Background Photo “Library” by timetrax23. CC BY-SA 2.0.

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