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 Arkansas, Utah, and Connecticut, as well as information about a new Southern Poverty Law Center designation for a far-right organization that supports book bans.
Group Challenges Arkansas Law That Would Criminalize Access to Some Books
Libraries, independent bookstores, and publishers have filed a federal lawsuit against a new state law in Arkansas that could send librarians and booksellers to prison, calling the legislation unconstitutional, reports The New York Times.
The Arkansas law is scheduled to go into effect in August and requires any material that might be “harmful” to minors, including books, magazines, and movies, to be shelved in a separate “adults only” area. The lawsuit claims the law “forces bookstores and libraries to self-censor in a way that is antithetical to their core purposes.”
Adam Webb, executive director of the Garland County (Ark.) Library and one of the plaintiffs, said the law puts librarians in an impossible situation. “They’ve created this catch-22,” Webb told The New York Times. “Either I comply with the law but violate the constitutional rights of my patrons, or I uphold the constitutional rights of my patrons and possibly get charged with a crime.”
Utah School District that Banned Bible Considers Removing Book of Mormon
A school district in Utah that banned the Bible from school libraries is considering removing the Book of Mormon, reports The Guardian.
Davis School District, which serves Davis County, north of Salt Lake City, is considering a complaint to remove the foundational text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from some school libraries. This comes just a week after a committee deemed the Bible inappropriate for containing “vulgarity or violence” and removed it from the shelves of libraries in elementary and middle schools. The Bible will remain in high school libraries.
The school district said it would assess the Book of Mormon for “all elements of the definitions of pornographic or indecent materials” as defined under a Utah law concerning sensitive materials.
Connecticut School Board Votes to Not Ban Two LGBTQ-themed books
On June 1, Newtown (Conn.) Board of Education unanimously decided to keep a pair of graphic novels on the high school library’s shelves, reports CT Mirror.
The board’s 5-0 decision supported a recommendation from district leadership and school staff to keep the books Flamer by Mike Curato and Blankets by Craig Thompson in the high school’s library. It also requires administrators to develop a process to address parent or guardian concerns related to their children.
The board’s decision was preceded by comments from community members, including testimonies from students about the importance of keeping books in the library for those that may identify as LGBTQ or those who may be struggling with issues discussed in the books like sexual assault, bullying, and navigating their sexuality.
“Kids like me die when policymakers politicize and eradicate our stories. Books like these offer a path forward—a way to live—when it seems impossible,” said an 18-year-old senior at Newtown High School who identifies as nonbinary. “This isn’t about a book challenge. For us, this is a targeted attack on our existence in this town. You ban these books, and you alienate us, you tell us we don’t belong. Kids will still find pornography. They’ll still learn vulgar language. They’re not getting that from these books anyways.”
Moms for Liberty Labeled “Extremist” by SPLC
Moms for Liberty, a far-right organization with chapters across the U.S., has been labeled as an anti-government extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a research organization tracking hate and extremism in the United States, reports the Courier-Journal. It is one of 1,225 organizations labeled as a hate and anti-government extremist group by SPLC. Founded in 2021 by conservative women in Florida, the group has landed national media attention for its efforts to ban books, limit discussion about race and LGBTQ identities, fight COVID safety measures in schools, and populate local school boards with conservatives.
"Thanks in part to its grand disruptions at school board meetings, political alliances, and extremist ties, Moms for Liberty has quickly become one of the most recognized names in the anti-student inclusion movement," SPLC’s website says.
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 to learn what you can do to defend the freedom to read in your community.