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This Week in U.S. Book Challenges

banned books map for August 19, 2022

Book challenges and bans are increasing in libraries and schools throughout the United States. To help spread the word about these activities and efforts to combat them by librarians, parents, students, politicians, and concerned citizens, I Love Libraries will frequently highlight several stories on the current crisis. This roundup includes news from Texas, Idaho, Florida, and Missouri.

Texas school officials order 41 books—including the Bible and an Anne Frank adaptation—off of library shelves

Keller (Texas) Independent School District is removing all books that were challenged last year within the school district, including The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, and all versions of the Bible, reports The Texas Tribune.

The removal surprised some Keller residents because a school district committee made up of members of the public recommended last year that some of the books being removed remain in student libraries.

Idaho library director to resign, citing “extremism” in community

Kimber Glidden, director of Boundary County (Idaho) Library, announced her resignation August 16, citing a "political atmosphere of extremism, militant Christian fundamentalism, intimidation tactics, and threatening behavior currently being employed in the community," reports KHQ Local News.

In a contribution to the Bonners Ferry Herald, Glidden said that the library does not have any sexually explicit materials in the children's section or "titles being circulated to generate fear and hate."

Book challenges lead to harassment of school board member and potential police action

An August 16 school board meeting in Polk County, Florida, grew contentious over challenged books in public school libraries, with the superintendent delivering a defense of the district's opt-out policy, a school board member stating that her family is being harassed, and a community activist threatening to file police reports against "anyone distributing the materials in question," reports The Ledger.

The controversy started last year when a group demanded that 16 books, including Beloved by Toni Morrison, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, be removed from Polk public school libraries because of passages the group said were "pornographic" or otherwise inappropriate for school-age kids.

New Missouri law makes it a crime to share “explicit” material with students

Under a new state law, teachers and librarians in Missouri could face potential criminal prosecution if they provide visually “explicit” sexual material to a student at private or public schools, reports KSDK. The images can come from books, magazines, videos, or online content, and librarians or staff members could be affected.

Opponents of Senate Bill 775, which will go into effect on August 28, believe the law will negatively impact marginalized communities. Joe Kohlburn, chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee for the Missouri Library Association, believes this law is troublesome. "We try to advocate to protect rights to access information. I think it's important for libraries and librarians to take a stand," Kohlburn told KSDK. "Things that are depicting people's life experiences, it's really problematic if you remove those things from a school library. You're robbing the people to see their experiences reflected."

Take action

Alarmed by the escalating attempts to censor books? Here are five steps you can take now to protect the freedom to read.

  1. Follow news and social media in your community and state to keep apprised of organizations working to censor library or school materials.
  2. Show up for library workers at school or library board meetings and speak as a library advocate and community stakeholder who supports a parent’s right to restrict reading materials for their own child but not for all
  3. Help provide a safety net for library professionals as they defend intellectual freedom in their communities by giving to the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund.
  4. Educate friends, neighbors, and family members about censorship and how it harms communities. Share information from Banned Books Week 2021.
  5. Join the Unite Against Book Bans movement to learn what you can do to defend the freedom to read in your community.
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