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2024 Louisiana Legislation Watch

Take Action on This Bill
HB 777
Sponsored by Rep. Kellee Dickerson
Analysis & Talking Points

 

Text of the Bill

Our Guide to Common Accusations Against the ALA

 

Analysis

HB 777 is yet another legislative bill seeking to criminalize Louisiana librarians simply for doing their job, by removing access to the training, professional development, and other benefits afforded by membership in the American Library Association. Not content to simply forbid the use of public money for memberships, professional development, or conference opportunities, the bill imposes fines of up to $1000 for offenders.

 For anyone who doesn't know, ALA is THE professional organization for librarians and libraries in the United States. Established in 1876, it is widely respected around the world, and provides an incredible array of benefits for both libraries and individual librarians. This includes things like tons of professional development opportunities, grants for community development,  networking, resources for making our libraries better, accreditation for institutions, best practices...the list goes on and on and on.

 

The ALA also offers accreditation to schools of library and information science. Degrees from MLIS (Masters of Library and Information Science) programs accredited by the ALA are required for most librarian positions in the United States. Louisiana has exactly one such program - at LSU. If HB777 passes, the school would no longer be allowed to pay dues to the ALA for that accreditation, and what's the point of keeping open a program which graduates people who can't get jobs in their field? As a consequence, LSU would be forced to shutter its MLIS department, and Louisiana would lose a graduate program with nearly 1,000 students.

 

That's nearly 3% of the LSU student population - gone.

 

Know what else the ALA provides resources on? Ways to fight censorship in libraries, and the book banners HATE them for that. They've come under fire in the last couple of years by groups like Moms for Liberty and No Left Turn in Education for providing resources on intellectual freedom, and best practices for providing free, open, and diverse collections in libraries. This, to far-right nationalist hate groups, is a cardinal sin.

 

When the current president, Emily Drabinski, was elected in 2022, she sent out a congratulatory tweet saying she couldn't believe a Marxist lesbian had been elected president of the ALA. She was excited, and probably didn't think about the political implications of those words. The far right did, however. They pounced. Since that time she's been relentlessly attacked online (even though she took the tweet down), and conservatives have started using it as an excuse to cancel membership in the ALA in some states. When pressed, they offer forth as evidence grainy conference photos and cherry-picked quotes from webinars given by the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, Deborah Caldwell-Stone. It's classic smear job, grounded in untruths and fueled by hysteria.

 

Setting aside the fact that it is dystopian and anti-democratic to check someone's party affiliation card at the door, in America we have the freedom of political association granted by the 14th Amendment. Even that aside: if Drabinski's tweet offends you, it's a little like throwing the baby out with the bath water to deny librarians membership in such a prestigious and important organization just because you disagree with the political views of its president - especially since her term ends in just a few months.

 

It's also worth noting that the ALA is not governed directly by its President, but by the over 100-member council which sets all policy. Drabinski has exactly zero power to set any kind of agenda at the ALA, Marxist or otherwise.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is precedent for this move. Louisiana has left the ALA before, over another conservative movement to attempt the erasure of entire swaths of our citizens. You can probably guess when that was.

Talking Points

  • The ALA is an organization which provides tremendous professional value to its members. ALA is the only organization which offers numerous professional development opportunities for school and public librarians, including conferences with workshops on educational programming, outreach to underserved communities, and administrative guidance.

 

  • ALA resources benefit many communities. ALA offers grant opportunities for communities including childhood literacy programming, rural library internet connectivity funding, and access to free online training for rural libraries.

 

  • The LSU Masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS) program would like close if this legislation is passed. LSU's program, with nearly 1000 students, is one of the oldest in the country. If passed, HB777 would forbid LSU from paying dues to the ALA, thereby rendering its MLIS degree worthless, and likely shuttering the program.

 

  • Removing access to the ALA for Louisiana libraries would severely curtail their ability to provide unique and informative programming, obtain grants, and hire qualified candidates. ALA not only provides numerous programming and grant-writing workshops, but also hosts job postings and help for librarians seeking employment.

 

  • This bill is seeking a solution to a problem that does not exist. There has been zero evidence that the American Library Association has pushed a political agenda to Louisiana libraries or librarians. The ALA offers a wide range of services, including training, guidance, and professional development for librarians, but does not mandate training with political purposes in mind.

 

  • The ALA has been the target of a sustained smear campaign over several years perpetuated by ultra-right conservative activists. Their accusations are based on misinformation, cherry-picked quotes, and outright lies. 

 

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