Illinois has become the first U.S. state to ban book bans.
Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed into law a bill that requires libraries to adopt the American Library Association’s (ALA) Library Bill of Rights, which states that “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” If the public or school library chooses not to follow these guidelines or similar ones, they’ll lose access to grant funding from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2024.
“Book bans are about censorship, marginalizing people, marginalizing ideas and facts,” Pritzker said at the June 12 signing held at Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. “Regimes ban books, not democracies.”
Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Alexi Giannoulias was a driving force behind the legislation. Speaking at the signing, he detailed the wide-reaching effects of book bans.
“Many librarians have been forced to quit after being harassed and subjected to intimidation and hateful messages on social media, others have been fired for refusing to remove books from circulation,” he said. “The concept of banning books contradicts the very essence of what our country stands for. It also defies what education is all about: teaching our children to think for themselves. When books are banned, we’re at risk from the harm that ignorance brings.”
Pritzker said the new law is essential for inclusivity for everyone throughout the state.
“All Illinoisans deserve to see themselves reflected in the books that they read, the art that they see, the history they learn,” Pritzker said.
ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall, also in attendance at Harold Washington Library, put the law into historic perspective.
“We insist that free people must always read freely. Free people read freely,” she said. “History will surely assess this moment and the years to come and note that we librarians and legislators, civic leaders and community stewards, did not stand idly by and let the right to read and to freely access libraries be taken from us.”
Photo: ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall at the June 12 law signing at Harold Washington Library in Chicago.