ALA, United for Libraries Urge Lafayette Library Board to Reinstate Program on Voting Rights

Diversity, Foundations & Trustees, Professional Ethics, Programming

On February 2, the American Library Association and United for Libraries sent a letter to the Lafayette Public Library Board of Control, urging them to reconsider their vote to refuse a grant and cancel a program on the history of voting rights.

The letter addresses the Lafayette (LA) Parish Library Board of Control’s January 25th vote to reject a $2,700 grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH). The grant is part of LEH’s “Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative which supports the LEH program “Who Gets to Vote?”, which aims to engage the public in a series of discussions on the history of voting—and efforts to suppress the vote—in the United States. The Lafayette Library planned to fund books, two speakers and a discussion on voting rights history. The two books were Bending Toward Justice by Gary May and Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha S. Jones.

Some board members expressed concern that the series was not “apolitical.” Library Director Teresa Elberson retired shortly after the meeting when some board members deemed the program speakers “extremely far left leaning” and said they were not going to “represent the other side.” The letter sent by ALA President Julius C. Jefferson and United for Libraries President David Paige addresses these concerns, and outlines the mission of libraries that serve everyone. 

“By providing your community with opportunities to engage in conversations with historians and scholars about topics of importance, you will send a powerful message to the public – that history is not a political debate, it is fact,” states the letter.

The letter also encourages continued community conversation with the Louisiana NAACP, Stand Black, and the Lafayette League of Women Voters to “ensure that the library’s programming and resources address the needs of the diverse Lafayette community, without regard to partisan complaints, public pressure, or fear of criticism.”

Read the full letter below. 

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