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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 Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, and a report of the surge of conservative groups driving book bans.

Louisiana launches tip line to report librarians for “sexualizing children”

The attorney general of Louisiana has launched an online form encouraging state residents to report librarians who they suspect of stocking sexually explicit books, reports The Lafayette Daily Advertiser.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced the tip line in a Facebook post. In the post, Landry said he met with residents of Slidell, Louisiana, who "want to protect the children" in St. Tammany Parish. Cory Dennis, a spokesperson for Landry's office, told The Daily Advertiser in an email statement:

"[Landry] spoke with parents and grandparents who are concerned about specific books of a sexual nature that are not age-appropriate yet remain accessible to young children within public libraries…. Our submissions portal was created to give parents across the state a voice in this matter, and we look forward to future discussions."

Dennis did not answer questions from The Daily Advertiser about how the tip line will be monitored, how a complaint will be deemed credible, or what actions would be taken as a result of a tip being submitted.

Ban on certain topics for library books in Texas town as “harmful implications”

On December 6, the League City, Texas, city council passed a resolution that bars the use of public money for purchasing, displaying, or stocking books in public libraries that fit certain categories, including those that  “contain obscenity or other harmful content,” reports Axios. The resolution also enables the council to create a “community standards review committee” that will review and make determinations about objections to any materials in public libraries “for which the intended audience is under 18.” A majority of public comments during the meeting opposed the proposal.

Criticism mounts over proposed rule regarding age-appropriate material at public libraries

KMOV4 reports that thousands of comments have flooded into Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office over a proposed rule regarding age-appropriate material at Missouri’s public libraries. The newly proposed rule would require all state libraries to adopt a new policy establishing age-appropriate guidelines and also allow anyone to challenge the designation. The rule also states no state funding for any materials that “appeal to the prurient interest of any minor.”

The Missouri Library Association, the ACLU, and library districts throughout the state have all expressed opposition to the rule.

In a statement, St. Louis County Library wrote: “We are always sensitive to any possibility of censorship and restriction of equitable access to books and other vital Library materials. We believe parents and guardians should be arbiters on what is suitable for their own children, and are wary of any third parties—including the State of Missouri—to impose those choices on others.”

Kansas town’s library has lease renewed after months of debate about LGBTQ+ content

Pottawatomie Wabaunsee Regional Library in St. Marys, Kansas, is safe for another year, following community uproar and legal pressure from the ACLU of Kansas, reports The Kansas Reflector.

St. Marys City Commission voted to extend the library’s lease during a December 6. The lease renewal was up for debate because the library had refused to accept a renewal clause asking for the removal of all LGBTQ and socially divisive books. The clause stipulated that the library not “supply, distribute, loan, encourage, or coerce acceptance of or approval of explicit sexual or racially or socially divisive material, or events (such as ‘drag queen story hours’) that support the LGBTQ+ or critical theory ideology or practice.” The clause was discussed after a parent objected to the library offering Alex Gino’s book, Melissa, about a transgender middle-schooler.

A fast-growing network of conservative groups is fueling a surge in book bans

The New York Times writes: “Traditionally, debates over what books are appropriate for school libraries have taken place between a concerned parent and a librarian or administrator, and resulted in a single title or a few books being re-evaluated, and either removed or returned to shelves.

“But recently, the issue has been supercharged by a rapidly growing and increasingly influential constellation of conservative groups. The organizations frequently describe themselves as defending parental rights. Some are new and others are longstanding, but with a recent focus on books. Some work at the district and state level, others have national reach. And over the past two years or so, they have grown vastly more organized, interconnected, well funded—and effective.”

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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