Monday, August 28, 2023

Queering the MLA: Emily Drabinski is Keynote Speaker at Upcoming Conference


 By Gretchen Garrity

Just as citizens are finding out their local school districts are run in a top-down manner, so public libraries are also the victims of pressure from state and even national organizations like the American Library Association and its chapter, the Missouri Library Association.

Currently in the Christian County Library

 These organizations, many of which receive taxpayer funding, are pushing agendas whose aim is to  indoctrinate children into sexual and political agendas that are often contrary to parents' and the community's values. Emily Drabinski, the current president of the ALA, has spoken about an encounter with a library book at age 14, in which two of the characters engaged in "fantastic queer sex." She says, " body told me I was probably whatever that was!"

Drabinski is slated to be the keynote speaker at the Missouri Library Association's annual conference in October.

You can read about her introduction to queer sex and more in this report from the American Accountability Foundation

The Missouri Library Association put out a statement in February regarding Missouri Code of Regulations 15 § 30-200.015, "The Missouri Library Association continues to oppose 15 CSR 30-200.015 Library Certification Requirement for the Protection of Minors and now opposes the HB 1159 filed in the House of Representatives on 2/15/2023. While the final version of the Secretary of State’s proposed rule reduces potential for frivolous challenges to library collections from any individual, it remains vague and continues to engender strife between the library and its community. The newly filed HB1159, however, makes no such distinction on who may challenge the library's collection. It goes beyond the rule to institute punitive damages against libraries and librarians for merely doing the work of the library, providing access to information resources."

The MLA asserts, "Of course, providing minors with obscene materials is already both illegal and against library ethics and standards, so the rule seems to be based on personal interpretations of what materials, displays, and programs are ‘age appropriate." 

However, they do not explicitly deny that such materials are present in the children's sections of Missouri libraries. 

Books like Gender Queer and All Boys Aren't Blue are currently in the Christian County Library and available to minors in the teen section, or as the library titles it, the "Young Adult" section, which is geared toward ages 12-17.

From Gender Queer

And while this Federalist article says the State of Missouri has cut ties with the ALA, what has publicly occurred is that Secretary of State John R. Ashcroft sent a letter withholding any future funding of the ALA. Ashcroft stated, "Therefore, I have instructed my staff to discontinue any future financial payments to the American Library Association. My hope is that you reconsider this blatantly political stance, abide by your own principles, and protect the right of Missourians." Ashcroft is specifically referring to the kerfuffle that happened when it was found the ALA was flirting with denying Kirk Cameron's Brave Books events meeting spaces in public libraries

Ashcroft said, "The American Library Association Library Bill of Rights states in Article VI, "Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affirmations of individuals or groups requesting their use."

May this be similar to when Missouri lawmakers threatened to withhold funding from public libraries in March of 2023, but by April 2023 the Missouri Senate had restored that funding?

Here are the April meeting minutes of the Secretary’s Council on Library Development, “Secretary of State Office Update; Trish Vincent: Vincent states that the state aid budget the House cut has been restored by the Senate. Vincent believes this money should stay.” Who is Trish Vincent? She is the Executive Deputy Secretary of State/Chief of Staff for Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

From the ALA's website


Has there been a formal withdrawal from membership with the ALA, or just a withdrawal of support? Even the headline of a July press release from the Secretary of State mentions the word "admonishes" but not an actual divorce.

To illustrate how this works, ALA President Emily Drabinski is the keynote speaker at the upcoming October 2023 MLA state conference. Is the MLA continuing their relationship with the ALA until next year's membership funds are due? Will the MLA use private funds to continue their membership with the ALA?  Since it is a chapter of the ALA, has the secretary of state also withdrawn support from the MLA?

Drabinski the keynote speaker at the MLA Conference


Noticeably missing from Sec. Ashcroft's letter was any mention of the Missouri Library Association (a chapter of the ALA), and the Missouri State Librarian's ties with it. Robin Westphal is the state librarian, and here she is quoted in a January 2023 article from American Libraries Magazine: "As a state librarian, Westphal connects the 160 libraries that are part of the Missouri Library Association (MLA) with needed resources. Most MLA members are rural libraries, she said, and they are seeking to “evolve and adapt” services provided to their communities. 'Sometimes the best stories come from small towns,' Westphal said."

Here is a screenshot from Westphal's appearance at the MLA's "Library Advocacy Day":

Westphal speaking at the MLA in February 2023

And here is Sec. Ashcroft speaking with the MLA in February:

How is the MLA not accountable for its current membership in the ALA? The connections are clear as seen in the MLA handbook and its Intellectual Freedom page. 

As long as our taxpayer-funded libraries continue to walk hand-in-hand with organizations like the MLA, the indoctrination of children into sexualized and politicized agendas will continue. Local public libraries who retain membership in these organizations will continue to be pressured to implement policies and agendas that are not in consonance with the values of their communities.

Again, ALA President Emily Drabinski is the keynote speaker at this year's MLA annual conference. Ponder that.

And just in case you think of the MLA as library professionals fighting valiantly for free speech, here is a short video clip from a post the MLA featured on their Facebook page, detailing a fundraiser for the MLA by Rude Revue's Booklover's Burleque: Kansas City Edition

MLA representative, Brian McCann detailed the August 26 show, explaining that the adult performance was all in good fun to raise funds for a beleaguered MLA trying to stop censorship. There's lots more at Rude Revue's Facebook page about the August 26 show, including another video clip with McCann.

Protecting vulnerable children and youth from sexually explicit books does not mean censoring adult entertainment--however vulgar; but the MLA is apparently fine with making that false connection.