Meet the Socialist Librarian Running to Lead the American Library AssociationBreaking News
tags: labor, socialism, libraries, American Library Association
The story of Emily Drabinski’s openly socialist run for president of the American Library Association (ALA) could start in many places: her politicization as a child campaigning against Styrofoam cups at a local frozen yogurt shop, her early career scholarship about how queer materials are catalogued in libraries, or her interactions during the pandemic with patrons for whom libraries are a critical lifeline. But you could also start the story with a sandwich.
In September 2011, Drabinski was a faculty librarian at Long Island University (LIU). She had been on strike with the rest of her union for a few days and was attending a meeting about a contract offer. But there wouldn’t be much discussion on the matter — members walked in to find handouts on their chairs, listing bullet-pointed highlights of the agreement. She recalls union leadership at the front of the room telling attendees they’d be voting yes on the contract, which no one was even given a chance to read.
“I remember sitting there thinking, this does not feel like I have a say in this,” Drabinski recounted.
It wasn’t what fighting in solidarity with others was supposed to feel like, a sense that was underscored by what happened next: the union president decided to celebrate the ratification by bringing in a really big sandwich to thank “the community” — including management — for their support during the strike. Drabinski was livid.
“Labor struggle is a struggle. It is not a sandwich,” she said indignantly. “I was so mad about the sandwich. We invite the administration to come join us for a sandwich, as if we had all just gone through a pageant!”
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