The Idaho Commission for Libraries’ membership with the American Library Association expired in February.
The decision appeared to have nothing to do with politics — and came down to whether the $175-a-year membership was worth the money.
On Thursday, state librarian Stephanie Bailey-White offered more details about Idaho’s relationship with ALA, a group that has drawn criticism in conservative circles. Earlier this week, a group of 13 hardline conservative lawmakers urged Idaho libraries to sever their ties with ALA — citing a since-deleted April 2022 tweet from ALA President Emily Drabinski, in which the Boise High School graduate described herself as a “Marxist lesbian.”
The 13 lawmakers want Idaho public and school libraries to drop the ALA, saying the association’s role “in corrupting libraries and exposing children to a pernicious ideology can no longer be ignored.” The Montana State Library Commission voted earlier this month to drop its ALA membership.
Bailey-White noted earlier this week that the Idaho commission is not an ALA member. In an email to Idaho Education News, she explained the decision.
The membership provided the state a 10% discount on ALA-provided books and resources, as well as a discount for posting job openings on a national platform. Some years, those discounts more than offset the membership cost.
“We hadn’t been utilizing many of those discounts in 2021-2022, thus the decision to not renew,” Bailey-White wrote Thursday.
Commission members voted in September to end the state’s ALA membership. The membership expired five months later.
Under a longstanding commission policy, the state does not pay for individual memberships to ALA. “Staff who choose to become members pay for membership on their own,” Bailey-White wrote.
Still, since 2019-20, the state commission has spent $6,319.76 of state tax money and federal funds on ALA services. These numbers come from Transparent Idaho, the state’s online checkbook.
In 2022-23, the commission spent $970 in state general fund money for training, allowing four staff members to ALA-sponsored conferences.
In 2020 and 2021, the commission spent $1,357 per year for virtual webinars, hosted by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of ALA.
“This was a cost-efficient way to provide access to virtual professional development specific to serving teens in a library setting, especially during the COVID years when in-person attendance was challenging,” Bailey-White wrote.
But after interest waned in the training, and as data on attendance grew spotty, the state dropped this project, Bailey-White said.