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 Colorado, Iowa, California, and Virginia.
Colorado conservatives call for law enforcement action to ban books
Republican leaders in Colorado want a prosecutor to help them remove hundreds of books from schools in the Colorado Springs area, claiming that the works violate obscenity laws, reports KUSA9 News.
A petition delivered to Republican 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen was signed by two Republican State representatives, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate, and a pastor who leads faith outreach for a Republican congressman. It was also endorsed by multiple conservative organizations, including the El Paso County chapter of Moms for Liberty, the Colorado Parent Advocacy Network, the El Paso County Republican Party, and several local churches. The petition calls for legal penalties against people promoting or possessing “obscene material.”
The conservative advocacy group Take Back District 20 has called the inclusion of the books in school libraries “clear criminal activity.”
Publishers, authors, and more file lawsuit over banned books in Iowa schools
The Iowa State Education Association, book publisher Penguin Random House, and several authors, including Malinda Lo, Laurie Halse Anderson, John Green, and Jodi Picoult, have filed a lawsuit in response to Iowa's education reform law which bans several books from schools, reports KCCI Des Moines.
The lawsuit was filed against the Iowa State Department of Education, several school boards, and several school superintendents in response to Senate File 496, a new law in the state that makes it illegal for school libraries to offer books that contain "descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act." It also restricts teaching about sexual orientation. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and Iowa families are also suing the state over the same law.
"Our position at Penguin Random House is that sex, race, politics—no idea can be banned by government authorities," said Dan Novack, vice president of Penguin Random House.
San Diego Public Library offers banned books to people across the country
San Diego Public Library (SDPL) has joined libraries in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Boston to participate in Books Unbanned, a program started by Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library in 2022 to provide access to books that have been removed from public and school library shelves in nearly two dozen states, reports KPBS.
The library is providing library cards to people who don’t live in San Diego and can’t access certain books in their own communities. The collection of about 400 books includes titles like Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning and George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue.
“A lot of people are still having to hide who they are and they’re still not able to read about the people who have the same experiences as them because they live in super conservative communities or they’re not even accepted by their own families, and so this is really what I consider a lifeline for them,” said SDPL Director Misty Jones.
Jones said that about 470 people from states in the Midwest and South have accessed the program.
Virginia school board bans 75 books
The school board in Virginia has banned 75 books from its schools, outraging many parents and teachers, reports NBC12.
The move comes after Hanover County School Board voted in June to adopt a new policy allowing residents to file challenges to remove books with sexually explicit material rather than allowing educators to assess the content of the books. Under the new policy, the school board has the sole discretion to remove books.
Some of the books being removed include Forever by Judy Blume, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Wicked by Gregory Macguire, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. The books must be removed from the shelves by December 22.
“Many of the protagonists in the stories are people of color, queer individuals, members of the LGBTQ community, and girls,” a local parent said. “Those are the stories that are being silenced, and it’s just it’s depressing.”
Alarmed by the escalating attempts to censor books? Here are five steps you can take now to protect the freedom to read.
- 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 theUnite 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.
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