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U.S. Book Challenges Update: November 10 Edition

Simple illustration of United States map with books on fire in various locations

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 Florida, Colorado, and Kentucky, and an actor's "proud" response to his book being banned.

Librarians turn to civil rights agency to oppose book bans and their firings

Some librarians who have fired from their jobs for refusing to remove books about racism, LGBTQ+ issues, and other issues relevant to marginalized people have filed workplace discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), reports ABC News.

At least one terminated librarian has gained a measure of success.

Brooky Parks, who was fired from the High Plains Library District for standing up for programs on anti-racism and LGBTQ+ stories she organized for teens at Erie (Colo.) Community Library, won a $250,000 settlement in September. Reached through the Colorado Civil Rights Division, the settlement requires her former employer to give librarians more say in decisions involving library programs. Parks' settlement will likely resolve her claim with the EEOC, said her attorney.

“I just wasn’t going to back down from it. It was just the right thing to do,” said Parks, now a librarian at the University of Denver.

Florida school district removes 313 books from its libraries

Collier County (Fla.) Public School District has removed 313 pieces of literature from its libraries in accordance with Florida House Bill 1069, reports Wink News. The recently passed Gov. DeSantis-backed legislation prohibits sexual content from appearing in schools.

Among the books removed are 18 by Stephen King, seven novels by Anne Rice, three from Ernest Hemingway, and one from Leo Tolstoy. Local parents are flabbergasted by the removals.

“It seems excessive. There are a lot of books on here I grew up with, and I’m just really confused,” said the mother of a Collier County student.

Read the full list of books removed from the district here.

The Florida Freedom to Read Project received public records that include directions from a district administrator to “carefully look over this list and ensure that if you have any titles that need to be removed, or moved to parent permission, you do as by Wednesday of this week.”

Steve Martin is "so proud" of his novella being banned in school libraries in Florida

In a cheerful social media post, actor and comedian Steve Martin mocked Collier County (Fla.) Public School District’s decision to ban over 300 books, including his 2000 novella, Shopgirl.

"So proud to have my book Shopgirl banned in Collier County, Florida," Martin wrote on Instagram. "Now people who want to read it will have to buy a copy!"

The book, which was adapted into a 2005 movie starring Martin and Claire Danes, tells the story of a depressed woman working in a luxury department store who begins an affair with a wealthy businessman, says Entertainment Weekly. The novella was one of hundreds removed from libraries in the district in response to a Florida House Bill 1069, which makes it easier to challenge any school library title that "depicts or describes sexual conduct."

More than 100 banned books return to library shelves in Kentucky school

Boyle County (Ky,) Schools are returning more than 100 books that were banned in response to Senate Bill 150, reports WKYT.

Boyle County Schools said it was in compliance with Senate Bill 150, the controversial bill that bans gender-affirming health care for minors and prohibits teachings on gender and sexuality in the classroom, when it removed the books, most of which dealt with racism and LGBTQ+ themes. However, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released a statement that SB 150 did not provide for the removal of library media resources from a school library.

Boyle County Schools announced November 3 that it will recirculate the banned books in response to KDE’s statement.

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 censorshipand 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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