". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


South Carolina Pulls Out of Two Liberal Library Associations Over ‘Tone-Deaf’ Anti-Parent ‘Activism’

September 30, 2023

South Carolina has canceled its membership in two library associations that accuse parents who believe young children should not see pornography of launching “book bans.”

The South Carolina State Library pulled out of the American Library Association (ALA) over its “tone-deaf … activism,” while the state’s public schools exited the South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) for creating a “hostile environment” against parents.

Leesa Aken, the agency director of the South Carolina State Library, condemned the “ALA’s hyper-focus” on engaging in “activism for certain groups of people and not advocacy for libraries and all of the people they serve.” A chief example is the ALA’s “tone-deaf” advice about purported “book bans,” Aken wrote in her August 21 letter.

She also criticized the “advice and action of some individuals associated with ALA for librarians to sneak materials into libraries and book their meeting rooms to avoid usage of certain groups of people” as “not only unprofessional” but in violation of “the basic principle that libraries are for everyone.” This summer the director of the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, advised libraries how to deny Kirk Cameron the ability to host a faith-based story hour inside libraries — advice that dozens of libraries followed, Cameron reported.

The ALA’s claim to be nonpartisan “does not ring true in the current climate,” Aken concluded.

The State Superintendent of Education cited similar concerns upon severing public schools’ ties with the SCASL. “Parents are entirely justified in seeking to ensure educational materials presented to their children are age-appropriate and aligned with the overall purpose of South Carolina’s instructional program and standards. When SCASL labels those efforts as bans, censorship, or a violation of educators’ intellectual freedom, the result is a more hostile environment which does not serve the needs of students,” wrote State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver.

“It is my sincere hope that in the future, SCASL will come to recognize and value the role of parents in directing the content of their children’s education and cease the use of hyperbolic rhetoric that politicizes these important issues,” she concluded.

Parents rights advocates celebrated the withdrawal. “More please! Thank you, South Carolina, for respecting your patrons, families and children, taxpayers, and donors enough to withdraw from a clearly captured and weaponized national organization,” Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, told TWS.

South Carolina’s withdrawal adds to the trickle of states making an exodus from the American Library Association since the group’s increasingly pronounced left-wing advocacy. At least four other states have withdrawn from the ALA to date, including:

  • Idaho: The Idaho Commission for Libraries let its ALA membership expire in February — not over politics but because the state found its $175 annual dues were not a good investment, state librarian Stephanie Bailey-White told Idaho Ed News. Idaho taxpayers have given the ALA $27,780.34 since the 2016 fiscal year, according to Transparent Idaho.
  • Missouri: On July 7, the Missouri State Library withdrew from the American Library Association over its discrimination against Kirk Cameron and other Christians. “The Missouri Secretary of State’s office cannot continue to support an organization that does not protect the First Amendment rights of Missourians,” wrote Secretary John “Jay” Ashcroft. “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 rights of Missourians.”
  • Montana: The Montana State Library Commission opted out of ALA membership on July 11, noting that its “duty to the Constitution forbids association with an organization led by a Marxist.”
  • Texas: The Texas State Library & Archives Commission announced that it would not renew its contract with the ALA in August. “This is a win for all Texans,” said state Rep. Brian Harrison (R). “Texas should be leading the fight against dangerous Marxist ideology — not subsidizing it with my constituents’ hard earned tax dollars. I’ll continue fighting to protect Texans from having their money weaponized against them, their values, and their children.”

“Each time this happens in a region, things ripple to other states. It becomes easier for neighbors to leave the ALA,” Kilgannon told TWS. “We hope many more do leave and that corporate donors to ALA are called to account for their funding of a Marxist-led organization.”

Six additional states are considering departing the controversial ALA: Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, and Wyoming. The ALA “recommends ‘gender identity’ books for the 0-5 year-old age group,” noted Alabama State Rep. Susan DuBose (R).

At the national level, Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) urged the federal agency that provides grants to libraries, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, to withhold ALA funding until it completes an investigation into the group’s efforts to silence people of faith. “The ALA is actively discriminating against Brave Books on account of their faith and is likely doing so with taxpayer funds,” they wrote on July 28.

Much of the ALA controversy swirls around its current president, Emily Drabinski, a self-described “Marxist lesbian” who declared,“[P]ublic education needs to be a site of socialist organizing. I think libraries really do, too.”

“We need to be on the agenda of socialist organizing,” Drabinski told the Socialism 2023 conference in Chicago this month. 

Elsewhere, Drabinski has denounced her perceived enemies as “angry white mob parents” who comprise part of the “Christo-fascist Right.” She accuses critics who object to indoctrinating young people in her political or sexual orientation of launching “targeted attacks” that are “being used as a bludgeon against library workers across the country.” Yet at the ALA’s Library 2.0’s “Banned Books and Censorship” conference this summer, keynote speaker Shannon Oltmann said libraries should not ban “pornography” that is “explicit or detailed,” because “[s]ometimes those things are really valuable to students.”

Drabinski knows the power of placing sexually explicit material in the hands of developing teens. Drabinski began to identify as a lesbian “around 14” after reading a library book about two women having “fantastic queer sex in a field.”

It is unclear how impactful her public statement, and the ALA’s intolerance of Christian views, will be. Not even all Republican politicians have warmed to the idea of leaving the increasingly left-wing ALA. When 13 members of Wyoming’s state’s Freedom Caucus called on Governor Mark Gordon (R) to withdraw from the ALA this summer, Gordon retorted that their “letter implies that … Wyoming parents are not capable of deciding how best to govern themselves and need the self-appointed morality police to show them the way.”

Yet the views of South Carolina’s Leesa Aken appear to show the ALA has isolated itself from some on its own side, because it could cost them taxpayer funding. Aken’s letter to the ALA boasts that South Carolina became the first state library system to hire a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultant. But now when she meets legislators, she spends one-third of her time “answering questions about the actions of ALA. … ALA has been a significant distractor from funding in my [s]tate.”

Meanwhile, citizens have taken action at the local level, as community libraries in Campbell County, Wyoming, and Midland, Texas, pulled out of the ALA.

Parents have also fought back against LGBTQ activism and other left-wing politicization of public libraries in other ways, as well. After the branch manager of a library in the South Carolina town of Travelers Rest (population 7,771), Nathan Schmaltz, refused to take down a Pride Month display, he was replaced by Baptist pastor Ray Arnett.

Pro-family advocates say there are many ways for parents to make their voices heard. “If you are a member of a library board, a parent, or a concerned citizen, you can fight back,” said DuBose. “Urge your local library to disaffiliate from the ALA, or consider seeking a position on your local library board.”

Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.