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Montana State Library Commission severs ties with American Library Association

Library books
Posted at 12:13 AM, Jul 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-13 12:24:00-04

BILLINGS - The Montana State Library withdraws its membership with the American Library Association.

Montana's decision comes in response to the group's president describing herself as a Marxist.

The impact will be negligible at the Billings Public Library, according to director Gavin Woltjer.

He says the library has four workers who are members, but the library itself is not part of the association.

Woltjer says he understands the board's decision, but at the same time says it's a good idea to be part of the ALA.

ALA President Emily Drabinsky stated in the 2022 tweet about being a Marxist, according to the Montana State Library Commission.

"She was unabashed," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, R-Mont. "And I recognize that her role may be only for one year."

The post has since been deleted.

Arntzen is also on the commission.

On Tuesday, the board voted, 5-1, with one abstention, to withdraw from the association.

"I believe that the national association has been polarized," Arntzen said. "We do not need to be tethered to a national organization that does not honor our great state, our values, or our nation as being America."

In a letter to the ALA, the commission states, "Our oath of office and resulting duty to the Constitution forbids association with an organization led by a Marxist."

Several months ago, the Campbell County Library Board in Wyoming voted to not cover the cost of memberships in the ALA, according to Terri Lesley, executive director of the library.

So far, the rest of Wyoming has stayed on board.

"There's lots of checks and balances in there," said Conrrado Saldivar, president of the Wyoming Library Association and tech manager for the Natrona County Library in Casper. "There's a process. To assume that all libraries are going to somehow become Marxist organizations under current president Emily Drabinski is just flat out incorrect."

Woltjer says the ALA is a good place for networking and conferences.

"I wish there was a little more robust conversation," he said on the phone. "I do not fault the commission. I hope the ALA does some examination of its president's platform. And I hope the two go back to a cohesive relationship."

That's something Arntzen expects will happen.

"And so my purpose was let's rebuild," Arntzen said. "Let's revisit. Let's see exactly how we can aid all of our libraries across our states, including our school librarians."