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Marxist elected to head American Library Association

"The consequences of decades of unchecked climate change, class war, white supremacy, and imperialism have led us here. If we want a world that includes public goods like the library, we must organize our collective power and wield it."

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Hannah Nightingale Washington DC
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Last week, the American Library Association elected openly socialist Emily Drabinski to serve as the group’s president-elect for 2022-2023.

On Drabinski’s website outlining her platform for her presidential run, she states: "So many of us find ourselves at the ends of our worlds. The consequences of decades of unchecked climate change, class war, white supremacy, and imperialism have led us here. If we want a world that includes public goods like the library, we must organize our collective power and wield it."

Her platform calls for enhanced funding to "schools, libraries, and communities, economic and racial justice for library workers and the communities in which we live and work, environmental sustainability, and collaboration and cooperation beyond our borders."

"Social and economic justice and racial equity requires that we make a material difference in the lives of library workers and patrons who have for too long been denied power and opportunity on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, national origin, spoken language, and disability," Drabinski states.

"As ALA president, I will direct resources and opportunities to a diverse cross-section of the association and advance a public agenda that puts organizing for justice at the center of library work," she added.

Her platform also looked to push the Green New Deal legislation.

"Floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and other consequences of climate change threaten libraries, library workers, and library publics around the world. We must build on recent association work in this area and connect to broader public legislation in order to preserve libraries and communities for an uncertain future," her platform stated.

She also noted that as president, she would "develop and share a global vision of librarianship in which international cooperation and exchange are central to equity and justice."

"From organized attacks on library funding to attempts to ban books to state bans on what can and can’t be taught in the classroom, all of us face pressures that get in the way of our core missions," Drabinski later added.

"As ALA president I will bring an organizing approach to association leadership, getting us talking with each other as we collectively develop a national campaign for libraries. How will I make that happen? Let’s find out. Remember: there are more of us than there are of them, especially when we work together," she concluded.

Following the announcement that Drabinski had been elected, she wrote on Twitter: "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!"

In a Jacobian piece written before the ALA election, reporter Natalie Shure recounted formative events that led to Drabinski running for ALA president.

One of which was a meeting with union members currently on strike at Long Island University in regards to a contract offer, where union leaders told attendees that they would be voting yes on the contract, which Drabinski took issue with, saying no one got a say in it, and wasn’t able to read the contract.

She would later be involved in another union story in 2016, where LIU management locked out the faculty, canceling paychecks and health insurance plans.

Drabinski used her clerical skills to organize a fightback with union members, allies, and students, with the lockout being ended in 12 days.

"I learned how much work it is to mount a defense against power," Drabinski told Jacobin. "I learned how crucial it is to get people together in moments like that. You’ve got to make a list, you’ve got to write out everybody who’s involved and has a stake, you have to talk to every single one of them. And you have to get every single one of them to talk to somebody else. And the conversations you have with each other are how you shape your strategy, and how you figure out how to turn your complaints into demands. That’s the work of forming collective power."

Drabinski noted that this is the type of power that library workers need at the moment.

Union struggles like this have been highlighted on Drabinski’s Twitter in length, including a New York City Amazon facility’s fight to unionize.

In response to her election, Drabinski said: "As we face an uncertain and challenging future, I know this: We have each other, and we are enough. I am ready to get to work with all of you to strengthen our Association and our field to support library workers and the communities we serve. Thank you for your confidence and support of my vision for ALA and your role in that vision. We have a lot of work ahead to build collective power for the public good. I can’t wait to get started with all of you."

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