Libraries and schools across the country are experiencing unprecedented levels of attempts to ban or remove books from their shelves. I Love Libraries will continue to raise awareness by highlighting attempts to censor library materials, as well as efforts by librarians, parents, students, and concerned citizens to push back against them. This report includes news from New York, Texas, and Virginia, as well as information about a beloved children's book that is facing a ban in Florida.
Anti-book ban bills introduced in New York State Assembly
Three Democratic members of the New York State Assembly have introduced bills within days of each other that deal with book bans, reports Observer Today.
Assemblyman Charles Lavine, D-Glens Cove, was first with a bill which stipulates that publicly funded libraries can’t ban books because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. He proposes every library that receives state money adopt the American Library Association’s (ALA) Library Bill of Rights. Libraries would also be given the option of creating a statement prohibiting the practice of banning books or other materials within the library or library system. Lavine also wants school boards to adopt similar language for school libraries. Assemblywoman Anna Kelles, D-Ithaca, and Assemblyman Brian Cunningham, D-Brooklyn, each also proposed bills that would withhold aid to libraries that ban books. Cunningham’s bill also proposed that libraries won’t receive state aid unless they adopt ALA’s Library Bill of Rights or develop their own policies prohibiting book bans.
None of the legislation is likely to be taken up until January.
Houston’s Little Banned Library highlights censored literature as Texas leads country in number of books banned
A couple has created a Little Banned Library in their Houston Heights neighborhood to counteract the increase in book bans that has been plaguing Texas, reports Click2Houston. Jennifer and Glenn Clements said they couldn’t remain passive about book bans anymore, so they opened the library to allow the community free access to books being banned and challenged at local schools and libraries.
“I have a friend whose mom is a teacher, and she just sends me her list. Every time a book gets banned, she immediately sends it to me and then we order the book,” said Jennifer, whose husband is an assistant librarian.
Books available at the Little Banned Library are ever-changing, but have included To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, The Color Purple, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Giving Tree.
Children’s book faces ban over claim it “damaged souls”
One of the titles in the bestselling Arthur children’s book series may be banned in Florida after a conservative claimant said that it “damaged souls,” reports Deadline.
Author Marc Brown’s Arthur books follow a fictional young aardvark named Arthur and his family and friends. One of the nearly 50 titles in the series, Arthur’s Birthday, published in 1989, is under fire after a member of the Florida’s Clay County School District community filed a challenge to the book being available in classrooms because of the storyline which finds Arthur receiving a glass bottle with the words “Francine’s Spin the Bottle Game” printed on it as a birthday gift.
The complaint states: “It is not appropriate to discuss ‘spin the bottle’ with elementary school children. This book is found in all/almost all [district schools]! ‘Spin the bottle’ not okay for K-5 kids.” And for the risk the complainant feared would ensue if the book remained available, they wrote: “Damaged souls.”
The Florida Freedom to Read Project responded to the challenge to Arthur’s Birthday, saying: “The entire book is about being inclusive of all friends and not only inviting boys or girls (based on your gender) to your birthday party.”
Virginia library director resigns amid battle to ban books
A library director in Virginia has resigned amid a battle to ban certain books in the library, reports North Virginia Daily.
Michelle Ross, director of Samuels Public Library Board in Fort Royal since 2020, stepped aside after months of criticism by a group that petitioned for the removal of 134 library books they found objectionable—mostly LGBTQ-themed material and some that contained sexual content. The group, called Clean Up Samuels, had called for the library staff and board of trustees to be replaced. In response to the protests, Warren County Board of Supervisors voted in June to withhold 75% of the library’s budget allocation for the upcoming fiscal year.
Ross’s last day on the job was August 4. A press release issued by the library stated that Ross left to explore career opportunities at larger libraries, but library supporters acknowledged the physical and mental toll the controversy has had on her.
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.
5. Join the Unite Against Book Bans movement and visit our Fight Censorship page to learn what you can do to defend the freedom to read in your community.