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Meet the Socialist Librarian Running to Lead the 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!”

Read entire article at Jacobin