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 Michigan, Maryland, Arkansas, and Maine, and a report on the threat to public education caused by book banning.
School Board Meeting Descends into Chaos Over LGBTQ Books
Hundreds of people protesting LGBTQ books shut down a Dearborn (Mich.) Public Schools board meeting on October 10. Detroit Free Press reports: “’Vote them out!’ the crowd repeatedly chanted during the raucous meeting inside an administrative center where the board holds its public meetings. The room was packed tightly, with many using an overflow room and others standing in the back and on the sides. Several held up signs with anti-gay rhetoric in English and Arabic, making religious references to assert that LGBTQ educational materials and books should not be available in Dearborn Public Schools, the third largest school district in Michigan. Some of the placards held up read: ‘Keep your porno books to yourself,’ ‘Homosexuality Big Sin,’ and ‘If democracy matters, we’re the majority.’”
Dearborn Police officer warns crowd to stop yelling and interjecting when school board is speaking. Some are booing board for not doing enough to remove LGBTQ books: pic.twitter.com/umgxSiS2xH
— Niraj Warikoo (@nwarikoo) October 11, 2022
Proud Boys Protest Drag Queen Story Hour in Maryland
Members of the extreme right-wing group Proud Boys protested a drag queen story hour at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, on October 8, reports Bethesda Magazine. Donned in skeleton-face masks and carrying signs that read “Science is REAL/BOY or GIRL” and “Groomer” crossed out by a red X, the group of about 20 men protested outside the visitors center at the gardens in Wheaton Regional Park, interrupting the story hour. D’Manda Martini, the day’s performer, tweeted that the group followed them to their car, while taking photos and videos and verbally assaulting them.
Conservative Group Seeks to Defund Arkansas Library Over LGBTQ Pride Display
Jonesboro (Ark.) Public Library could soon be defunded after a local conservative group filed paperwork with the state ethics commission for a ballot initiative to slash its funds, reports Arkansas Times. The paperwork is a step toward allowing the group, called Craighead Citizens Taxed Enough, to raise funds for their campaign, which reportedly grew out of a Pride display in the library more than a year ago.
Gender Queer Dominates Public Discussion in Maine School District
Several community members spoke out against Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer during an October 6 meeting of the Regional School Unit 40 Board of Directors in Union, Maine, reports the Courier-Gazette. The board is currently reviewing whether to keep the book in the high school library. The public comments were charged and polarizing.
Mike Kee, a pastor in Union, Maine, said during the meeting that having Gender Queer in schools would “hyper-sexualize” kids. The Courier-Gazette reports: “Kee also told the board the plus sign in the LGBTQ+ community was ‘for the pedophiles,’ and supporting one part of that community meant supporting pedophiles as well. Voting in favor of Gender Queer would be voting in favor of pedophiles, Kee said, and the board would face judgment ‘in this world or the next one.’”
Banning Books Is a Threat to Public Education
“Moms and dads should be kissing the feet of school librarians, those underpaid and overworked experts who knock themselves out trying to interest their kids in reading,” writes Katha Pollitt in The Nation. “Instead, a highly organized critical mass of parents has devoted itself to removing from school libraries books that in their view promote sex, especially of the LGBTQ variety, and ‘critical race theory’ (i.e., books by people of color, like Nobel Prize–winning author Toni Morrison and best-selling YA novelist Angie Thomas), to say nothing of classics like The Handmaid’s Tale, Bridge to Terabithia, and Maus.”
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.