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, Texas, and Wisconsin, and an interview with a children’s book author who's rallying fellow writers against book bans.
Michigan town library millage fails again over LGBTQ books
Voters again rejected a millage that covers about 85% of the budget for Patmos Library in Jamestown Township, Michigan, forecasting an uncertain future for the library, reports WOOD TV News 8. Patmos Library was thrust into the national spotlight in August when the funding measure first failed, reportedly due to community members who were upset that the library contained books dealing with LGBTQ+ themes. Book lovers across the country rallied to help the library after the August vote, including romance novelist Nora Roberts who donated $50,000 to the library.
“These are very challenging times for libraries in general and there is a huge increase in a number of materials that have been challenged,” said Carol Dawe of the Lakeland Library Cooperative, which includes Patmos Library.
Texas parents hold book fair after school district bans Scholastic Books over content
Parents in Grapevine-Colleyville (Texas) Independent School District organized a book fair after the school district refused to work with vendor Scholastic over concerns about book content, reports KXAS NBC 5 TV. The district claimed that Scholastic wouldn't provide an inventory of every item being sold ahead of time as reason for the severed relationship, but NBC 5 obtained an email that singled out a social media post by a Scholastic editor as another reason for the fair’s cancelation. In response, local parents joined together and hired Scholastic on their own for the fair, raising $10,000 which they will donate to the district.
Books being removed from school libraries amid an organized effort to ban books across Wisconsin
Months after the implementation of a new library policy at Elmbrook School District in Brookfield, Wisconsin, seven books have been removed from circulation, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The district claims that the books do not meet the policy’s new content and privacy standards. The seven books removed were Embrace by Jessica Shirvington; Perfect by Ellen Hopkins; Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide by Kathy Belge and Marke Biesche; The Infinite Moment of Us and TTYL by Lauren Myracle; Traffick: The Sequel to Tricks by Ellen Hopkins; and This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also reports that the seven books are “also included on a now-public list that is nearly identical to one created, in part, by a Wisconsin GOP legislator and parents from outside the Elmbrook district as part of a coordinated effort to remove certain books from public libraries…. The list comprises 45 books, primarily those that feature any sexual content or the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters or topics.”
Of all things to ban, not books
Deseret News speaks with children's author Shannon Hale, a home-grown Utah mother of four and self-described "sort of a hermit" who has no political affiliation and doesn't really see herself as an activist. But she also doesn't see herself enabling pedophiles.
After the publication of her 2021 book, Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn, about a kitten and a unicorn who teach each other about acceptance and being who you are, Hale was notified by her publisher that some people had accused the author of being a groomer — someone who prepares kids for pedophiles. It wasn’t the first time such accusations have been hurled at the author.
“A groomer is a horrible thing. I did not anticipate being accused of prepping children for pedophilia,” Shannon told Deseret News. “A message in children’s books to be who you are is a very old concept. I’m not doing anything new here.”
In response to the recent accusations, Hale penned a letter condemning “the efforts to suppress, demonize, and ban books from our state’s schools and libraries. These attempts overwhelmingly target books by and about LGBTQ people and by and about Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color,” and recruited 38 Utah authors, including Brandon Sanderson, Ally Condie, Yamile Saied Méndez, Jessica Day George, and Sara Zarr, to cosign the letter.
Hale says her hope is to “shed light on the good books can do as opposed to the damage foreseen by a small minority.”
“I’ve seen firsthand the power books can have,” she says. “They can be life-saving, and I don’t mean that as an exaggeration.”
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.