Senate Bill 390: Analyzing the Impact on Library Affiliations

Image courtesy of Massimiliano Raposio via Flickr and Creative Commons

By: Content Team Seven

Senate Bill 390 was proposed after the current president of the American Library Association, Emily Drabinski, made a public statement celebrating her position whilst identifying as a Marxist and lesbian. “Republican state senator Larry Walker, the bill’s sponsor, says ALA funds were used to diversify his local library catalog, which is why he brought this legislation to the Gold Dome”, (Georgia lawmakers leave library bill on the shelf), and many others made comments, saying that they don’t want Marxism flooding the libraries. With this reasoning, the bill would not allow any affiliation between Georgia’s public libraries and the American Library Association. This would mean no funding or resources could be received from the ALA. 

Senate Bill 390 made it to the last day of the Georgia General Assembly, passing through both houses, but was forgotten about before the day ended. Rahul Bali, a Georgia politics reporter, tweeted about the idea of a bill being “resurrected”, or brought back from the dead, by being implemented in other, similar bills trying to get passed before the clock struck midnight on the last day of the assembly. Therefore, this is important because of what all occurred to create this bill, to have it pass through the houses, and yet to perish because there was not enough time left to fight for it. 

Senator Larry Walker, the man who authored the bill, created it because of a person, not because of the association itself necessarily. When discussing this bill, and politics in the past, he harped on how the American Library Association has given money to libraries to expand their “LGBTQ” book sections and other topics like this. Walker more importantly added this to his argument against Emily Drabinski, president of the ALA, saying that because she has stated that she identifies as a Marxist and a lesbian, that the association cannot be trusted anymore because the influence of the “association” will negatively affect children through the books, funding, and information shared through them. Mind you, a new president is elected every year.

A large argument towards the American Library Association is that they allow children to have access to books that expose them to things they don’t need to be. There are books banned throughout the country, and with the argument about Emily Drabinski, many concerns have been raised. The author of this tweet specifically depicts the idea that pornography is being accessed too easily through books. The influence of those in charge of this association are not able to fully control what children read, and parents are the ones who should be more aware of what their children are consuming. Though it is understanding that people don’t want their kids to be reading such material, it is also understandable that the president of the company wants to ensure that there are enough books to make more people feel understood and heard, just like how she’s being judged for her sexual orientation.  

In a tweet from Ashley Stewart, campaign strategist for Every Library and a former public library director, she talks about the concerns with this bill and how it impacts people’s freedom to read and work with library associations. The bill would further dictate what children are allowed to read, which would contradict Sen. Larry Walker’s argument towards Drabinski. If they aren’t allowed to read certain books, then they are having to conform to whatever the bill says is “right”. As a result, the bill would further impact the employment, funding, and programs that benefit many. This is not just a Georgia bill that has been presented, many states have been forming bills and clauses regarding their judgment of the American Library Association.

As mentioned in the previous text, the World Library Association shows that if this bill had passed there would not be any funding, whether from taxpayers or private donations, that schools or businesses could receive from the American Library Association. The passage of this bill would be very critical for schools like Valdosta State University, which offers a degree in Masters of Library and Information Science program. The program receives a $3.5 million dollar fund from the ALA that students can put towards their degree. The program is vital to Valdosta State as it brings students into the school, builds the university, and also makes it more achievable for students to get a degree in the field they dream to work in.

Libraries are full of stories, information, lessons, hope, and so many more things. People read to feel understood, and children dive into books to figure out who they are. The American Library Association stands for freedom of expression, which is why Emily Drabinski felt comfortable sharing what she believes in. It is why they fund schools like Valdosta State University. Drabinski has worked towards making more books available in areas where she identifies, but also where there’s an area of disregard for books that could be good to have in libraries. Drabinski isn’t pushing Marxist ideas or literature on anyone. With this in mind, how much of this bill was about the children, and how much of it was about politicians judging someone’s ideologies that are not being forced upon them. 

Taylor Hawkins, director of advocacy for Front Line Policy Action, gave testimony on why the bill should be passed and how the ALA is turning away from advocating for political neutrality. Recalling back to the fourth social media artifact listed, is it not considered politically neutral if the politicians in the government are trying to frame what children are allowed to read and making sure they don’t read certain other books because they might stand for things they don’t agree with. Hawkins talks about how the current President of the ALA is wanting to work with queer library politics, but it does not say that she is forcing children to read queer-related books or removing any books that she finds homophobic from the libraries. Hawkins is partaking in something she believes in, but it will not reshape what the ALA is. Again, it should be noted that he chose to focus on one thing Drabinsky identifies with and has failed to mention that there is a new president elected each year, so these beliefs would not be around for very long.

Madeline Ryan, candidate for House Representative 158, tweeted her support for not allowing this bill to be passed, reiterating the impact it would have if all public libraries, schools, and anyone else were affected if they were not able to receive the funding they needed from the American Library Association. Ryan says they are “attempting to silence the people”, which continues to back up the argument that this bill would have done more damage for libraries and children than to have allowed Emily Drabinski to have her own identity and not corresponding it to the entirety of the American Library Association.

Lobbyist Michael R. Griffin says it was an “honor” to testify with previously mentioned Taylor Hawkins. He advocates for the bill, and shares the idea that taxpayers would not be having to contribute to an association that has become controversial. There have been many issues with funding for public schools in the state, mostly being frustrations with what tax dollars are contributing to. While not having tax dollars sent to the ALA, they would be used elsewhere, and many people won’t be happy with that either. The American Library Association is for the people, children, and public libraries, and if they aren’t to be used, along with the other associations they are affiliated with, this problem is far larger than being upset that a Marxist is in office for a year.

This tweet includes the statement from the Senate Press Office regarding the details of the bill. If libraries are prohibited from associating with the American Library Association, they lose funding for what their purpose is, less books will be available, and people will not have access to resources that are beneficial in many ways: “such as the $400,000 over the last couple years that helped public libraries around the state pay for literacy programs and disability upgrades,” (Georgia lawmakers leave library bill on the shelf ).The association contributes heavily to libraries across the nation, yet someone believing in Marxist views has enough power to turn states against the entire organization. The ALA has a list of things that they stand for, one being diversity, which is, hopefully, something the representatives of Georgia believe in. Therefore, this is important because it’s the exact reason this bill began, because of someone having differing opinions, ideologies, and preferences. 

The American Library Association contributes to the nation, and prohibiting affiliation with them would change the trajectory for public libraries and schools throughout the country. The bill was created because people with opposing opinions are trying to limit those who don’t agree with them. One person, the president of the association, a position that’s re-elected for every single year, expressed her beliefs: thus, Senate Bill 390. Taylor Hawkins preached about the importance of political neutrality in public libraries, and if they were to limit the types of books allowed, then that’s contradictory. The bill was forgotten about on the last day of the GGA, but depending on the effects of other states passing similar bills, we’ll see if it comes back next year. 

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