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National library association comment on Lafayette controversy

Student ID cards work as a library card in Lafayette Parish.
Posted at 11:54 AM, Feb 03, 2021

A national library association has called on Lafayette's library board to reconsider a recent vote to decline a grant that would have funded a program about voting rights.

On February 2, the American Library Association and its division serving trustees, 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 Parish Library Board of Control’s January 25th vote to reject a $2,700 grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. 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.”

To read our stories about this ongoing controversy, click here,here, here and here.

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.

Here's the letter: