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Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus calls for libraries to leave the American Library Association

State Rep. Dawn Keefer during a news conference.
Matt Rourke
State Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York, is the leader of the House Freedom Caucus.

In April, the American Library Association elected Emily Drabinski president of the non-profit that, among other things, helps local libraries find funding.

Drabinski sought the office with a campaign to take on politically conservative groups who have been fighting for book bans across the nation.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus called on all libraries in the state to end their affiliations with the association, because Drabinski has referred to herself as a Marxist. A statement from the far-right caucus included fears that she might use tax dollars to promote sexually explicit materials.

In the statement, Freedom Caucus Chair Dawn Keefer, R-York, said “the fact that the American Library Association would even consider electing a self-proclaimed Marxist” is “an affront to our constitutional republic …”

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In 2020, Keefer and 25 other House Republicans signed on to a resolution calling for the decertification of the election results.

Those Republicans cited baseless claims supporting former Pres. Donald Trump’s election fraud lie. State and county officials, two state-mandated audits and dozens of court cases determined the election was fair and the results were accurate. Had the representatives’ resolution succeeded, it would have disenfranchised millions of legal Pennsylvania voters.

In her news release last week about Drabinksi, Keefer cited Benjamin Franklin, who founded the nation’s first library.

Franklin himself, under the pen name Silence Dogood, said “without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech” in a 1722 letter to the New England Courant.

Drabinski’s Marxist ties are reflected in her views on labor reform. In an interview with Jacobin Magazine, Drabinski said the ALA needed a president on “labor’s side.” After winning the ALA election, Drabinski tweeted “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. I am so excited for what we will do together. Solidarity!”

She later deleted that tweet.

Pennsylvania’s Freedom Caucus is one of many states’ freedom caucuses to call for disaffiliation. One state, Montana, was successful in getting its state library to leave the ALA.

The ALA is a non-partisan organization committed to serving people of all backgrounds and ideologies, according to a statement.

Presidents are elected for a one-year term and decisions are made in conjunction with a 15-person executive board and 131-member elected council, the statement reads.

“One of the most significant benefits to membership is full access to ALA’s standards for library services; continuing education and professional development opportunities; community of practice and subject matter experts; and funding sources, grants, scholarships, in-kind support, and resources that help to underwrite the delivery of programs and services for library users,” the statement reads.

Read more from our partners, WITF.