A Dire Threat to Librarian Professional Affiliations Amidst Rising Book Bans

The Escalation of Book Bans

Book bans are increasingly moving from local school districts to public libraries and even city or county governments. At the state level, this local control is further overridden. An alarming trend has surfaced in 2024—several states are proposing legislation to ban affiliations with the American Library Association (ALA), the primary professional organization for library workers.

Unwarranted Attacks on Librarians

Librarians consistently rank among the most trustworthy professions by parents and communities. Yet, this hard-earned trust is now under siege. Inaccurate yet inflammatory narratives spearheaded by far-right groups cast libraries as purveyors of "pornography," "obscenity," and "inappropriate material." This mischaracterization also targets diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, alleging that such efforts undermine parental control and community values. The most recent wave of book bans is more about eradicating materials that don't conform to a far-right Christian agenda from American democracy, rather than the content of the books themselves.

Targeting the ALA

When the bans fail to achieve their full extent, opponents shift their focus to the ALA. By vilifying this longstanding professional organization, these groups aim to destabilize the field, eroding the very foundation of professional librarianship that dates back to 1876. Disaffiliation harms libraries considerably, given that ALA membership grants access to specific projects and funding, as well as guidelines for ethical and legal compliance.

The Harmful Impact of Disaffiliation

Professional associations across various fields rely on membership dues to fund initiatives and advocate for their members. The ALA is no different, offering grants, policy guidance, and lobbying on behalf of libraries. Policies seeking to reject ALA affiliation essentially sabotage libraries, cutting off crucial resources and support. This self-damage is the actual endgame.

New Legislation Against Librarians

A few weeks ago, an article highlighted state-level legislation aimed at criminalizing library workers. Now, moves to ban ALA affiliation are gaining traction. These bills prohibit the use of taxpayer money to pay for affiliation, disregarding that many library workers are underpaid, and such perks as professional memberships are critical for their development. Unlike other professions, such prohibitions purposefully miss the point—further isolating and weakening library institutions.

"A society that does not respect its libraries is a society lacking in respect for the knowledge and diversity they represent." – Anonymous

Relevance in Bookish Merchandise

As libraries face these unprecedented challenges, support for the literary community is more crucial than ever. Check out the fantastic bookish merchandise available at Liam and Lore. From tote bags to bookmarks, their products are designed to promote a love for reading and a passion for libraries. Celebrating and supporting libraries through such platforms can make a difference in these trying times.

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Legislation that seeks to disconnect library workers from their professional organizations is a misguided and harmful response to misinformation and mischaracterization. In solidarity with our libraries, it’s vital to understand the implications and support efforts that uphold the integrity and inclusivity of American libraries. For those looking to make a tangible difference, supporting library workers and organizations like the ALA is a crucial step forward.

May 26, 2024 — Kristin James