Locked cell in front of a bookshelf. (Image: Alyssa Shotwell.)

Louisiana Bill Would Sentence Librarians to Hard Labor for Joining ALA

The GOP’s war against reading has hit a new low: criminalizing librarians who want to join the American Library Association.

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Louisiana state representative Kellee Dickerson (R) introduced House Bill 777 to the Louisiana state legislature at the end of March. The bill, if passed, would prevent public sector library employees from using public funds to join ALA or partake in any continuing education opportunity sponsored even partly by ALA.

And the potential punishment if they do? Two years of imprisonment and hard labor.

Here’s the text of the bill:

A. No public official or employee shall appropriate, allocate, reimburse, or otherwise or in any way expend public funds to or with the American Library Association or its successor.

B. No public employee shall request or receive reimbursement or remuneration in any form for continuing education or for attending a conference if the continuing education or conference was sponsored or conducted, in whole or in part, by the American Library Association or its successor.

C. Whoever violates this Section shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars or be imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than two years, or both.

ALA is the largest professional organization for librarians in the United States. Along with its annual conference, ALA puts on training webinars, publishes textbooks, gives awards like the Caldecott Medal, hosts professional committees, and includes sub-organizations like the Public Library Association. Even if a librarian isn’t a dues-paying member of ALA, the organization is almost impossible to avoid throughout the course of a library career. To prohibit giving any public funds to ALA is to hobble not just individual librarians, but entire library systems.

To be clear, it looks like librarians could still use personal funds for ALA activities. (Honestly, with libraries already so strapped for cash, that’s the reality for many library employees anyway.) However, the purpose of Dickerson’s bill is clear: It’s part of Republicans’ broader attack on libraries and intellectual freedom. Bills like these go hand-in-hand with book banning and censorship, which are often aimed at people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community.

This bill is cartoonishly evil—hard labor for attending a library webinar? Really?—but the sentiment behind it is all too common. Republicans are terrified by books, curiosity, and freedom of expression, and they’ll stop at nothing to squelch them.

(via Book Riot, featured image: Alyssa Shotwell)


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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>