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U.S. Book Challenges Update

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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 Montana, Virginia, Florida, and New Hampshire.

Library staffers in Montana resign after bullets and bullet holes found in books

Three library advisors at ImagineIF Libraries in Montana resigned from their posts due to perceived threats to their safety after several bullet-riddled books were dropped off at the library in August, reports the Flathead Beacon. On August 3, library staff at the ImagineIF library in Kalispell found five books in the overnight drop box that appeared to have been shot with a firearm. Two days later, two more books were found with bullets lodged in them.

Virginia court blocks Republican attempt to criminalize LGBTQ books

A Virginia judge has thrown out a lawsuit that tried to make it illegal to sell or lend two popular LGBTQ-themed books (Gender Queer and A Court of Mist and Fury) to minors in the state, reports the Virginia Mercury. Republican State Delegate Tim Anderson from Virginia Beach filed the suit on behalf of former GOP congressional candidate Tommy Altman. They characterized it as part of a broader effort to strengthen parental control over what children read, while critics denounced it as censorship. Retired Judge Pamela Baskervill sided with lawyers defending the continued distribution of the books.

Moms for Liberty wants more books removed from Virginia school libraries

A chapter of the activist group Moms for Liberty in Virginia is asking Fauquier County (Va.) Public Schools to pull from school library shelves 14 books it considers too sexually explicit or violent for any student to read, reports the Fauquier Times. The books in question—many of which are award-winners—are: 19 Minutes by Jody Picoult; Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher; Crank by Ellen Hopkins; Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell; Fade by Lisa McMann; Flamer by Mike Curato; Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel; Girls Like Us by Gail Giles; Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo; Looking for Alaska by John Green; Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur; Seeing Gender: An illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression by Iris Gottlieb; Sold by Patricia McCormick; and What Girls are Made of by Elana Arnold.

All the books will remain in school libraries while school-based reviews are underway. This is the second set of books the group has asked to be removed from local school libraries. In June, they asked for a review of three books they want pulled from a high school library.

School board overrules ban on four books in Florida schools

Four books that were pulled from high school library shelves Osceola County (Fla.) School District will be restored, reports Newsweek. The books—All Boys Aren't Blue, Looking for Alaska, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Out of Darkness—were pulled last year after parents raised concerns about their content. But a majority of the book review committee formed by the school district voted to keep all four books in school libraries. The committee unanimously agreed that Looking for Alaska was suitable for middle and high school students, while the other three books were suitable for high school students.

New Hampshire city council and community reject bid to ban four LGBTQ+ books

A Republican state senator from New Hampshire’s attempt to ban four books dealing with LGBTQ+ topics was rejected by Rochester (N.H.) City Council last week, reports Foster’s Daily Democrat. The books in question were Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, Flamer by Mike Curato, Let’s Talk About It by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, and Here and Queer by Rowan Ellis. About 20 community members turned out to oppose the effort by Gray, who also sits on Rochester City Council. The council voted 12-1 to remove Gray's request to discuss his proposed ban from the meeting agenda.

"I think this is nonsense," Rochester resident Brian Carroll said at the September 6 council meeting. "There are so many other issues the council should be dealing with, not worrying about reading a book. Some kids might need the help they can find there. I do not believe the library trustees would place anything inappropriate on the shelves."

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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