The Montana State Library Commission opted to withdraw from the American Library Association on Tuesday, citing their disapproval of the ALA's new president, who previously described herself as a "Marxist lesbian."
Upon her election in April 2022, ALA president Emily Drabinski wrote in a tweet “I just cannot believe that a Marxist lesbian who believes that collective power is possible to build and can be wielded for a better world is the president-elect of @ALALibrary.” The post has since been deleted.
In a letter to the ALA, the Montana State Library Commission stated that their decision to withdraw was made because their office "forbids association with an organization led by a Marxist," the Montana Free Press reported.
Drabinski's political ideals, dismissed for being "Marxist," are rooted in her commitment to improving the livelihoods of library workers. Early in her career, Drabinski researched how libraries catalog LGBTQ+ media, and mobilized fellow union members in a struggle against Long Island University management. She campaigned for her presidency with a pledge to secure better protections for employees.
"The president is the person who will respond to an attack in the New YorkTimes on the expertise and authority of library workers," Drabinski previously told Jacobin Magazine. "We need a president whose public statements will be on labor’s side, that will be socialist in tone. There’s a real appetite for that right now."
The Montana State Library Commission's decision follows recent trends among conservative politicians and organizations who have increasingly focused on LGBTQ+ book censorship in order to "protect children" from "grooming."
In a statement published on its website Thursday, the ALA noted that decisions are "made by ALA staff leadership working with a full range of committees and advisory groups.” They also pointed out that the Montana State Library has benefited from ALA membership, receiving more than $218,000 in grants over the past two years, as well as a 24 percent increase in federal funding between 2019 to 2023.
"Despite the decision in Montana this week, ALA remains committed to providing essential support, resources, and opportunities for every library and library worker in every state and territory across the nation to help them better serve their communities," they wrote.
Susan Gregory, the director of the Bozeman Public Library, also voiced her disapproval of the measure, writing in a statement that “we don’t leave the United States because we don’t like or agree with whomever the sitting President of the United States is."
“I hope that the Montana State Library Commission will understand the critical importance of remaining in our professional association so that we know what is happening in the world, our country and neighboring states to improve public libraries," she said.