Host: Following a lead from Gov. Ron DeSantis, parents’ rights activists want Sarasota County libraries to drop membership in one of the world’s oldest library associations. Ramon Lopez has that story.
Ramon Lopez: Florida is the latest state to sever connections with the American Library Association. The ALA, a non-profit, has gotten involved in a nationwide controversy over which books students should
read. Also targeted in the Sunshine State by conservative citizens and politicians is the Florida Library Association, or FLA.
The ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world. It provides training to local librarians and works to improve library and information services. It is currently led by Emily Drabinski, a self-proclaimed Marxist. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida
Sen. Marco Rubio, both Republicans, back defunding the ALA. They said the group is ‘toxic’ and ‘exposes children to
The Florida Department of State, which oversees the state’s Division of Library and Information Services, quietly announced in October that it will no longer allow grant project activities associated with the ALA. Local libraries pay for ALA memberships. It provides discounts on library materials.
How the new Florida state policy will affect local libraries is unclear. But an indication of what might happen in Sarasota County was evident at last week’s Sarasota County Commission meeting. Six county residents called on the county to defund the ALA and FLA. The commissioners did not respond to their pleas, but they asked the commissioners to bring the issue up for a vote at its Nov. 14 meeting.
Michelle Pozzie, a Republican candidate for the District 74 Florida House seat, was crystal clear on her position regarding the two library groups.
Michelle Pozzie: I’m here today to ask somebody, maybe a few of you, to please assure and take under your wing the cause of defunding in Sarasota County the American Library Association and the arm of the Florida Library Association. It’s a bigger umbrella of three-letter organizations that – believe it or not – push ideology, explicit material, and not-age-appropriate material. Let me be clear, no one wants to ban books or censor speech. But filth and ideology should not be funded at the taxpayer’s expense. It’s not my responsibility to fund a book that sits on a shelf that teaches young people in cartoon images to give oral sex. That makes me sick, and the ALA and the FLA are an arm of a bigger movement to bring inappropriate content into our public libraries.
RL: So was Barbara Vaughn.
Barbara Vaughn: Emily Drabinsky has a long history of advocating for the queering of public libraries. Mrs. Drabinsky is a self-proclaimed Marxist. How many more are in our school systems, in our schools, in our elected offices that we don’t know about? I strongly urge you to end our county’s membership in the American Library Association and its state chapter affiliation for the Florida Library Association. Please make a motion to place this item on your agenda for the next meeting.
RL: Linda Weinrich and Clayton Taylor also weighed in on the controversy.
Linda Weinrich: We cannot expose them to things that will cause them to see their consciences become uncomfortable and want to commit suicide.
Clayton Taylor: We should not be funding subversive organizations. You know, we need to protect kids because, if the evil wins, then where are we? My ask is to take this up at the next meeting. Students of our school system have access through their school ID to check out books and things in the library. So if we’ve done the right thing in the schools, then we need to do the right thing in the libraries, and that’s my ask, please take it up. Let’s put the money where it really matters, and not supporting such an evil empire built across the country run by a communist.
RL: Renee DiPilato, Director of Libraries and Historical Resources for Sarasota County, told WSLR News the county maintains memberships with the ALA and the FLA. She said “neither the ALA nor the FLA have any influence on local book acquisitions. We rely heavily on community input to determine what ends up on library shelves.”
DiPilato went on to say that each county library offers a children’s section with age-appropriate materials. Parents have the right and responsibility to restrict their children’s access to library resources. It is every family’s right to make those decisions.
But she added: “Materials in our libraries reflect the diverse ages, interests, educational levels, and cultural backgrounds of members of the community. I trust our community members to make their own decisions about the books they read and the information they consume.”
DiPilato says she is always responsive to requests from the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners and attends county commission meetings when the department has items on the agenda.
For public libraries and school libraries, book bans and attempted bans continue to hit record highs, says the ALA. And book
banning attempts are close to home.
This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.
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