Florida has made headlines by announcing its decision to sever ties with the American Library Association (ALA) amidst a heated debate over the presence of sexually explicit books in schools.
The move, driven by concerns over the use of public funds to support the ALA, has ignited a broader culture war involving conservative states and the organization.
The Division of Library and Information Services, overseen by the Florida Department of State, has issued a new rule forbidding any grant activities linked to the ALA for the current year, extending this decision to state chapters. The Florida Library Association (FLA), the state’s ALA chapter, expressed concerns that this limitation will negatively impact Florida libraries’ ability to serve residents.
This bold move by Florida officials comes on the heels of several other counties, including Collier County, Citrus County, and Hernando County, canceling their memberships with the ALA. It reflects the broader shift in conservative states away from the ALA, driven by concerns over explicit materials and the organization’s perceived alignment with leftist ideologies.
Governor Ron DeSantis, a prominent figure in Florida politics, signed a state law earlier this year that requires schools to meticulously document all books available to students. Any book that receives a complaint for being potentially pornographic, harmful to minors, or depicting sexual activity must be temporarily removed until educators review its content. This law, like Florida’s decision to break ties with the ALA, has sparked intense debates over the boundaries of intellectual freedom and censorship.
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Florida is not alone in its stance against the ALA. Alabama, Wyoming, Missouri, Montana, and Texas have also severed their affiliations with the organization. In Texas, the Library & Archives Commission chose to disaffiliate from the ALA after a Texas State Representative accused the organization of promoting “dangerous Marxist ideology” and explicit materials in public libraries.
The controversy surrounding the ALA escalated when ALA President Emily Drabinski made a comment in 2022 that some conservatives found alarming. Drabinski referred to herself as a “Marxist lesbian” and expressed enthusiasm for the collective power to bring about positive change. This comment, since deleted, further fueled the perception of the ALA as an organization aligned with leftist ideals.
The ALA now finds itself at the center of a fiery culture war, with conservative states questioning its role and values in American education and public libraries.