Here’s Where Library Workers are Prohibited From Their Own Professional Organization: Book Censorship News, May 24, 2024



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Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She’s the editor/author of (DON’T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

What begins at the local level moves to the regional level, then onto the state level when it comes to book bans. School book bans shift to public library book bans (despite claims made otherwise by those book banners), and then those bans find their way into the city or county level. In too many cases over the last four years, those city or county-level issues bubble to the state level, leading to legislation that does precisely the opposite of what the local-level regression seeks — local control is ceded to the state or country. This perspective is crucial for context as to why, in 2024, several states proposed legislation that would ban affiliation with the largest professional organization for library workers, the American Library Association (ALA).

Data shows that librarians are ranked among the most trustworthy professions by parents. Unfortunately, this trust is being tested and questioned.

Library workers are seeing their ability to be affiliated with their professional organization challenged. This is fueled by misinformation peddled by the far right, who see the ALA as some kind of machine that encourages librarians to fill their shelves with “pornography,” “obscenity,” and “inappropriate material,” as well as one that trains library workers how to undermine parents through diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. As outrageous as that sentence sounds — do we see the same kinds of arguments lodged at, say, police professional organizations, despite the fact they, too, seek to educate law enforcement officers about diversity, equity, inclusion, social-emotional learning, and so forth? — it underscores what these book bans are actually about. It’s not the books. It’s about eliminating anything outside the far-right Christian agenda from American democracy.

So when the book bans themselves are not enough to get the job done, ALA is a prime next target. By demonizing a professional organization, these individuals and groups are able to further damage the actual professionalization of the field — one that goes back to 1876. Disaffiliation is harmful to the libraries themselves, too, as the ALA provides grants and projects that are available only to those who are affiliated with the group (something pretty standard across all professional organizations, as membership dues help fund these things). ALA also helps libraries follow policies, procedures, and standards to ensure that these institutions are strong stewards of public money, that they follow ethical and legal guidelines, and that they actually serve the whole of a community. ALA lobbies on behalf of its members, too, ensuring that libraries are being funded and respected as one of the few democratic institutions in America.

As bills seek to ban or revoke access to the ALA, they are only damaging themselves, which is, of course, the end goal.

A couple of weeks ago, I rounded up the state-level legislation that aimed to criminalize library workers. This week, I’m highlighting the 2024 state legislative bills that aim to ban library worker affiliation with the American Library Association and the associated punishment. It is very important to note that these bills use language that many then weaponize against library workers and those reporting on the dangerous censorship happening in libraries. These bills specifically spell out that taxpayer money cannot be used to pay for affiliation. The problem is that library workers are themselves underpaid, and one of the few perks of working in libraries is that membership into the professional organization is paid for by these institutions (not to mention these bills make it illegal for the libraries themselves to affiliate, which begs the question of then who would pay for it if not the taxpayers already funding the library). This kind of “well, actually” of professional affiliation does not happen to other professions.

It also deeply and purposefully misses the point.

Alabama

  • House Bill 425 took aim at several aspects of library work. Section 3 specifically would prohibit any entity that received money from the Legislature, “including the state and any library in this state,” from affiliating with the American Library Association. For the purposes of this bill, “affiliating” means becoming a member, as well as receiving any training or certifications from the organization. This bill did not proceed following its proposal in early April, as the state legislative session concluded May 14, but it is very likely we’ll see an iteration of this again next session.

Georgia

  • Senate Bill 390 passed out of the Senate and into the House but ultimately died at the conclusion of the state legislative session. This bill amended part of the Georgia code such that it would be prohibited for library workers in public libraries or public institutions of higher education to use taxpayer funds for “materials, services, or operations” offered by the ALA. It would prohibit attendance at American Library Association-affiliated conferences with taxpayer money or privately donated funds, and it would have dissolved the certification board for libraries at the state level. It would further prohibit acceptance of a bid for proposals made by the ALA in the state.

This is the literal opening paragraph of the bill, worth sharing because of how out of pocket with reality it is:

The General Assembly finds the following: (1) The bureaucracy that has developed around the certification of librarians has become heavily intertwined with and influenced by the American Library Association; (2) The President of the American Library Association has declared herself to be a Marxist; (3) The American Library Association has used the librarian certification process to promote its ideology; (4) The vast majority of residents of this state do not want their tax dollars to directly or indirectly support such an ideology; (5) Other states have begun reducing the influence of the American Library Association; (6) The Georgia Library Association is an affiliate of the American Library Association; (7) The Georgia Library Association should no longer be an affiliate of the American Library Association; and (8) The Georgia Council of Public Libraries is well suited to assume responsibilities concerning the certification of librarians and related duties.

While “only” three states attempted to pass anti-professional affiliation bills this year, these did not occur in a bubble. They’ve been popping up throughout the country, starting first at the municipal/county level and then moving upward toward the state. Here are some of the places where libraries and library workers are not allowed to be part of the American Library Association because it has been prohibited by legislation and/or because they have “taken a stand” against the association for reasons like the right-wing talking points laid out in the Georgia bill:

  • The Alabama Public Library Service Board because the association is “a distraction.” (2024).
  • Manatee County, Florida, just severed ties between the county libraries and the ALA, and as a bonus, they’ve barred library workers from attending any ALA conferences. Why? Well, it’s ALA’s “woke agenda.” (2024).
  • The Texas State Library & Archives Commission because the organization elected “a radical socialist and self-described “Marxist lesbian” as President.” (2023).
  • The Louisiana State Library let its membership lapse rather than renew it at the end of 2023. There’s been no official reason given, but it’s probably not a surprise nor a secret why.
  • Midland County, Texas, withdrew its membership to the ALA. (2023).
  • South Carolina State Library also called the organization a “distraction” and withdrew its membership. (2023).
  • Florida’s Division of Library and Information Services (part of the Florida Department of State) prohibited any grant activity to libraries across the state if they are connected to the ALA. This means several incredible exhibits, funding opportunities, and other projects that aim to help reach people in library settings are against the rules in Florida (2023).
  • Campbell County Public Library (WY) withdrew from the ALA following local challenges to “inappropriate books” in the public and school libraries. This was the first library to leave the ALA, following pressure from an SPLC-designated anti-LGBTQ hate group (2023).
  • Sarasota County (FL) killed funding for their public libraries to be part of the American Library Association. (2023).
  • So did Collier County, Florida. An attendee at the county commissioners meeting who was for ending the county library’s membership with the ALA noted, “ALA promotes gay and sexually explicit books that children could find in libraries.” No proof was necessary, of course. (2023).
  • Lee County, Florida, also withdrew from the American Library Association. The commissioner who brought the idea up claimed parents had reached out to him with concerns, and as a bonus, the state’s bar on “grant activity” with the American Library Association was used as further leverage in the decision.
  • The Montana State Library Commission withdrew their membership with the American Library Association because they are forbidden from associating with a Marxist institution (2023 — this same commission thought that their new logo was too gay because it used the colors red, green, yellow, and blue).
  • The Missouri State Library (MO) withdrew its membership from ALA following the alerts, with tips for preparation, sent by the organization that right-wing, faith-based groups were planning on taking over library programs last August. These were the Kirk Cameron library story time programs, and apparently, an association helping library workers prepare for this — including ways to ensure safety — was just too much for Jay Ashcroft. (2023).

Why would county-level politics play a role or have interest in the professional organizations of library workers, you might wonder. This is because such deprofessionalization serves commissioners in two ways. First, they can claim they ended a woke agenda pervading local institutions. Second, they can claim they saved taxpayers money. They win on playing into the rhetoric of a small but loud constituency and toward a larger group with their spinning of this as “fiscal responsibility” (never mind they do not elaborate or clarify that responsibility is at the expense of one of the few institutions of democracy still left in America).

It’s worth noting that oversight of State Libraries is often at the state legislative level, meaning that even if a state governor or other legislators cannot pass state-wide bills banning affiliation with ALA, they can enact that at the state library. That’s why you see so many listed above — it’s a petty act of power but one with a real chilling effect.

The above is likely an incomplete list — but it emphasizes the newness of the deprofessionalization movement; the flimsy logic as to why such decisions are important; and more, an ill understanding of the purpose, structure, and organization of the American Library Association. Truth doesn’t matter in an ever-growing fascist regime.

Book Censorship News: May 24, 2024

  • “If Alabama public libraries want to get millions in state funding, they now must move ‘inappropriate’ material for children, mandate library cards specifically for minors, and obtain advanced approval for obtaining materials — and they need to make changes this summer.” The new law, which was met with fierce opposition, passed anyway, so expect a groundswell of book bans across Alabama in the name of, well, KEEPING THE LIBRARIES OPEN.
  • Despite the new policy, the state still cut 9% of the budget to the Alabama Public Library Service for not making enough awful changes.
  • In Limestone County, Alabama, a resident and her friend at the local Bible college who have been comparing books in the library to “loaded guns” are demanding the state not fund that library until they have a “legitimate board” (aka, a board that will ban all of the books they do not like).
  • Nassau County Schools (FL) are now being sued for removing And Tango Makes Three and dozens of others from shelves by the authors, alongside local parents. The authors have a similar lawsuit in Escambia County.
  • Three St. Tammany Parish (LA) board members have sued the parish council and a district representative for their unfair removal and for violations of the First Amendment.
  • A superintendent at Orion High School (IL) made a teacher remove Fun Home from classroom instruction following a single parental complaint calling it “pornography.” The book was being used in a dual credit course with the local community college.
  • Folks in North Carolina, please be paying attention to who is on board with this “stop school porn” group and be writing every one of your representatives.
  • Who could have guessed that implementing policies in schools that came following parental complaints about inappropriate books in schools would lead to…more books being challenged (literally anyone who has been around these last four years). Here’s how that’s playing out in Franklin County Schools (VA).
  • Daviess County Commissioner Janie Marksberry (KY) makes it clear she’s not a librarian for a reason by stirring debate over the meaning of the “young adult” section of the library. This is where we are, folks.
  • St. Charles City-County Library (MO) may need to close several branches and lay off 30-some employees following budget issues — which is something that local book banners have to be cheering, as they successfully got an adult book from the adult section of the library removed last year.
  • Speaking of the St. Charles Library (MO), one of their employees is suing one of the library harassers. Why? Because their appearance became “proof” of LGBTQ+ “indoctrination” during book banning fights.
  • Not a bomb threat per se, but why would someone put a device on a shelf by books about explosives that looks like an explosive? This was at Holland Public Library (OH).
  • Three grown-ass adults with too much time on their hands showed up at the Elizabethtown Public Library (PA) to demand the library never put on a Drag Queen Story Hour like one held at another library because they “to erase the established morals of our society and of course beginning with the children.” Harassing public officials and making up morals panics don’t, I guess.
  • At Troy Schools (OH), one book will be moved from the middle school to the high school — that’s Magical Boy — while Beyond Magenta, a book written for teens, will just be outright banned from the district.
  • I’m paywalled, but Cobb Schools (GA) has removed yet another book for “review.” This district is being sued for violating civil rights for their book removal, so interesting they’re just doubling down in the mean time.
  • “Escambia County Public Schools [FL] Superintendent Keith Leonard is taking matters into his own hands when it comes to chiseling down the district’s book challenge list that now tops 200. Leonard told school board members in a workshop Thursday that he would be joining the school district’s Coordinator of Media Services, Bradley Vinson, in the ‘very near future’ to go down the list, book by book, even if it takes days to do it.” Two lawsuits are making the work feel more pressing. But also, the superintendent isn’t a library media specialist.
  • Moore County Schools (NC) are being sued by PFLAG for Title IX violations following the district’s decision to ban and put restrictions on LGBTQ+ books.
  • Here’s how the book banning is going in Huntington Beach Public Library (CA). Spoiler: folks aren’t happy!
  • “The 18 plaintiffs challenging an Arkansas law that would alter libraries’ processes for reconsidering materials asked a federal judge Wednesday to make his temporary injunction of the law permanent, according to court documents.” This is something we should all want to see — those wanting to dismantle public libraries in Arkansas are hoping the judge doesn’t make the injunction permanent.
  • I’m paywalled here, but Dover school officials (PA) have also been meeting with anti-LGBTQ+, right-wing political action groups. The fact these school officials have been getting away with this nonsense for so long is infuriating. Yet, it won’t change much since, well, this news is paywalled, among other things.
  • A recall petition has been circulated against a Seaside City Councilor who has been trying to get “inappropriate” books removed from Seaside Public Library (OR). This is good work on the part of local anti-censorship advocates.
  • Higley Unified School District (AZ) heard complaints this week over the use of Nineteen Minutes for a class assignment. Recall this is a book about a school shooting — that wasn’t what they complained about.
  • “Billings Public Schools librarians said this week it was ironic they were being recognized for the Pat Williams Intellectual Freedom Award from the Montana Library Association at the same time the school board was considering undercutting their work.” The school board is making book banning much easier in the district, and the quote here from one of the eager book crisis actors about manure is everything that’s shitty about working in libraries right now…people and nonsense like that.
  • A must-read on the ways prison book censorship especially harms trans people.
  • Kearney Public Schools (NE) heard a presentation from school librarians on how they weed and deselect books in the collection — both professionally acceptable and necessary activities. As they did, they mentioned that they have recently implemented “mature” stickers on books to….help?…students. We know stickering is easily stigmatizing, and there’s no clarity on what “mature” means in this context. But more concerning is the number of grown adults still showing up to complain about books in the school district.
  • The new law in Louisiana means parents in the Lafayette Parish Public Library will need to reenroll any children under the age of 18 and choose a new card with different restrictions for them. Once again, this is going to lead to the loss of access to so many kids, not only because of their parents’ choices but because too many will never have their parent/guardian able to get into the library and update their cards.
  • Encinitas Union School District (CA) heard complaints about the book My Shadow is Pink this week…and it all started because the book made one child uncomfortable. Isn’t the book banning party the party of “sometimes it’s going to be uncomfortable, and you learn to deal?” Interesting. That appears not to apply to LGBTQ+ books or people.
  • A new policy in the Franklin County Schools (VA) that encourages book reviews of titles deemed “inappropriate” by book complainers has — wait for it — led to an onslaught of book complaints. The leader of the movement to ban books is a former police officer.
  • If you’re in the Harford County School District (MD), they’re seeking folks to join the committees reviewing books that are being challenged.
  • “A new rubric Oklahoma is using to review K-12 school textbooks asks whether learning materials ‘degrade traditional roles of men and women,’ promote ‘illegal lifestyles’ or neglect the importance of religion in preserving American liberties.” Kids in public schools in Oklahoma are being given actual indoctrination, not education, given the new laws and policies being shoved into place by anti-education, far-right politicians.
  • The law proposed earlier this year in Illinois that would amp up protections for library workers when there are threats has moved into the Senate — this is great news.
  • “The time is now. It’s time for the American people, real men, to saddle up, to go on the march. It’s time to go into the public libraries, to go into these public schools and rip the filth off of these shelves and destroy it. To remove it from the face of the planet for all of eternity, to turn it to ash, and every time it’s reprinted, we do it all over again.” That’s rhetoric from a MAGA commentator who says if they’re going to be called book banners, they might as well lean into it.
  • An Ohio representative just proposed a bill in the state that would criminalize teachers and librarians for “distributing material deemed obscene.” Yes, another librarian criminalization bill.
  • Read the write-up here from the Williamson County School Board (TN) meeting this week, where the board talked about how the new state law that encourages book banning is a no-win situation. No, really, read this to see the realization that the only way to implement this nonsense is to waste so much time and money, and no matter what choices they make, they’re going to get sued.



  • What Do Book Challenge Forms Look Like?: Book Censorship News, May 17, 2024


  • How To Prepare for Pride Month in Libraries 2024: Book Censorship News, May 10, 2024


  • Are Librarians Criminals? These Bills Would Make Them So: Book Censorship News, May 3, 2024


  • How to Fight Book Bans in 2024: Book Censorship News, April 26, 2024


  • Google Is Destroying Your Access to News: Book Censorship News, April 19, 2024


  • What Young People Can Do About Book Bans: Book Censorship News, April 12, 2024


  • Sexual Assault Awareness Month & Book Banning: Book Censorship News, April 5, 2024


  • How Public Libraries Are Targeted Right Now—It’s Not “Just” Books: Book Censorship News, March 29, 2024


  • The 2024 Lambda Literary Awards Shortlists Are Here





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