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 reports includes news from Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.
Arkansas bill that would make librarians criminally liable for distribution of obscene material fails
An Arkansas State House bill that would make librarians criminally liable for distributing materials deemed obscene by courts failed to advance from a House panel on March 7, reports ArkansasOnline.
Senate Bill 81 failed in the Judiciary Committee after nearly three hours of discussion and testimony. Opponents of the measure argued that it would invest legislative bodies with judicial power and disproportionally impact books written by and about LGBTQ people. They also claim the bill could lead to libraries and local elected officials being inundated with requests from people outside of their communities to remove books.
A mobile bookstore with a mission: delivering banned books
In response to new legislation in Florida that gives the state the power to ban books from schools, a Sarasota bookstore is raising money for a Book Bus that will feature and sell banned books, reports Sarasota Magazine.
The store, called Shelf Indulgence, set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund a mobile bookstore that will prominently feature banned and challenged titles.
“We want to make a big part of the bus raising awareness of banned books,” said store owner Nikki Snyder. “That is a very real issue all over the country, but especially in our area. If we have the power to bring awareness to it and make those books more accessible, then that’s what we want to do.”
Part of the Kickstarter funds will go to paint the bus. Snyder plans to hire local artists to paint on the vehicle images and quotes from famous authors about the perils of book bans.
“We have to pick it up in Ohio and drive it back down here,” said store owner Nikki Snyder. “We didn’t realize it costs $10,000 to $15,000 to have a professional paint the bus. We feel like if the bus stays yellow, it looks like every other bus and our message will get lost, so we are painting it purple. It needs to stand out.”
Florida students push back against book bans
Students, parents, and teachers came out in droves to a mid-February Pinellas County (Fla.) School Board meeting to protest the removal last month of Toni Morrison's 1970 novel, The Bluest Eye, from high schools following a parent's complaint, reports WUSF Public Media. At issue in the complaint were passages in the book describing a father raping his daughter.
"I feel like I'm living on the pages of a dystopian novel," said Largo High English teacher Heidi Arndt, who said she has been teaching Fahrenheit 451, about a book-burning fireman, for the past 30 years.
The Pinellas County book ban is one of many to emerge in the wake of House Bill 1467, signed into law last year by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, which "preserves the rights of parents to make decisions about what materials their children are exposed to in school,” according to the Florida Department of Education. Some at the Pinellas County School Board meeting questioned why the challenge to Morrison’s book did not follow established procedures, and why the decision to pull the book from school shelves was made so hastily.
"How is it that one mother thinks that she can keep all the children of all the other mothers from reading that or any book? What gives her the right?" said one parent.
North Dakotans stage read-ins to protest book bans
People protesting legislation that would ban books in North Dakota recently held “read-in protests” at libraries in the state, reports KFYR TV.
Patrons at Veterans Memorial Library in Bismarck and Minot Public Library in Minot mounted the protests in opposition to North Dakota Senate Bill 2360, which states that any written or visual depiction of sexually explicit content inappropriate for minors shouldn’t be available in public libraries and businesses.
Minot Public Library Board member Christine Cherry told KFYR that, with the way the bill is written, it would include such content in movies, TV shows, and video games carried anywhere in the libraries and businesses.
“It would have a detrimental effect on our independent bookstores especially, so that is why we shelve our books the way that we do. We have a children’s section which is downstairs,” said Cherry.
Cherry said the read-ins are easy ways to show support without submitting testimony to state lawmakers.
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.