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ImagineIF trustee votes for state commission to leave library association due to “Marxist leadership”

by TAYLOR INMAN
Daily Inter Lake | July 13, 2023 12:00 AM

ImagineIF board trustee Carmen Cuthbertson joined other State Library Commission members in voting for the Montana State Library to leave the American Library Association, an organization that provides resources and connects librarians throughout the United States.

The decision comes as a reaction to a 2022 tweet from American Library Association President Emily Drabinski describing herself as a “Marxist Lesbian,” which quickly drew the attention of conservative media outlets nationwide, as reported by the Montana Free Press.

During the State Library Commission meeting on Tuesday, Cuthbertson said she researched how the election process works for the association and that Drabinski “worked very hard” to become president. Cuthbertson said she “sees an agenda and a purpose when someone works that hard to become president of an organization.”

She said she disagrees with their practice of sending out book lists for libraries as recommended purchases, which she believes goes against a library’s responsibility to look at what books are in demand locally.

“So, the practice of sending out book lists and telling your followers or email list to go check out books on a particular list, totally distorts that one objective way for libraries to manage their collections. To see that practice from the ALA itself, to me, means they have gone so far away from promoting healthy, good library practices. It’s shocking to me,” Cuthbertson said.

She said they always have the option to rejoin the association if they change course.

ImagineIF Board Co-Chair David Ingram also gave public comment during Tuesday’s meeting. He said he supports the decision to withdraw from the association. He said instead of following their mission of expanding library services, the organization has “injected the library into the vanguard of the culture wars.”

“I fear that many of those dominant in the library decision making process desire to participate in reshaping our society with a Marxist bent,” Ingram said. “It receives over $210 million of public funds, yet uses these funds to undermine truth and natural law, the very foundation of western civilization.”

ImagineIF Board of Trustees voted in December of 2021 to withdraw the library system from the American Library Association. Trustee Doug Adams said at the time he believed the organization had a “radical leftist agenda” disguised as "intellectual freedom."

Opponents who spoke against the decision during public comment at Tuesday’s meeting argue that the American Library Association is a good resource for professional training, including Bozeman Public Library Director Susan Gregory. She said she’s been involved with the association for more than 40 years and has seen it provide literacy programs for all ages, important staff training resources and many other benefits to libraries. In addition to this, she said she’s never seen a program or presentation from the association that centered on “Marxism, Communism, or one political stance over another.”

ImagineIf Library Director Ashley Cummins said she has a membership herself and said she believes it’s a valuable resource for library workers.

“I think it's very valuable to have a place to network with your colleagues and to discuss issues in libraries, to realize that maybe what feels overwhelming to you personally isn't necessarily unique. Other people have gone through it and how they got through it, I find that to be very helpful. They also offer a lot of continuing education opportunities,” Cummins said.

She said library staff members can still choose to be members of the American Library Association and doesn’t anticipate the State Library Commission’s decision will have much impact on ImagineIF.

Reporter Taylor Inman can be reached at 406-758-4433 or by emailing tinman@dailyinterlake.com.