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Proposed Tennessee Bill Threatens Librarians with Fines or Jail Time

The reading room of Nashville Public Library

Libraries have long advocated for everyone’s freedom to read and access information—but a pending bill in the Tennessee legislature would bring widespread censorship to the state’s public libraries.

HB 2721/SB 2896, also known as the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act, would establish a five-person review board for every public library in Tennessee. These oversight groups would be separate from library boards and would have the final say over which materials and programs are acceptable for children and teens; libraries would be banned from providing what these boards deem “age-inappropriate sexual material” to minors. Any library defying the oversight group’s restrictions faces the loss of state funding—and its staff could be fined or jailed.

Librarians are trained to build diverse collections that serve the varying needs of their communities. They recognize that different families have different values and beliefs, and that everyone has the right to choose from a wide array of materials and programs. HB 2721/SB 2896 would give small groups of individuals the power to override librarians’ expertise and the library board’s authority, and to impose their personal views on all young people in their communities. 

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