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 North Carolina, Louisiana, California, and New Hampshire.
Sarah Maas's A Court of Frost and Starlight banned by North Carolina school
An advisory board for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina has voted to remove Sarah J. Maas's novel, A Court of Frost and Starlight, from its school libraries, reports The Daily Beast. A complaint from a parent who objected to the "adult themes and sexual content" in the book resulted in the decision.
A Court of Frost and Starlight is a companion novella to Maas's bestselling young adult fantasy series, A Court of Thorns and Roses. Bloomsbury, Maas' publisher, describes the series as a "seductive, breathtaking fantasy series that blends romance, adventure, and faerie lore into an unforgettable read." It has sold more than 13 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 37 languages. Maas's A Court of Mist and Fury has been the subject of at least 27 bans, and another of her books, Empire of Storms, has been the subject of 22 bans, according to PEN America.
Library board in Louisiana reverses course on pulling challenged books
St. Tammany Library Board of Control in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, has rescinded a policy that segregated more than 150 challenged titles pending review, reports Fox 8 WVUE. The policy-which First Amendment advocates say was unconstitutional-was adopted in December amid pressure from the St. Tammany Library Accountability Project, a group of conservative activists responsible for multiple book challenges. Most of the affected books feature LGBTQ+ themes.
In the 10 months since it adopted the policy, the library board has worked through less than two dozen of the over 150 challenge titles, a pace that meant the books were likely to be kept sequestered for years.
"The Board's policy has allowed a few residents to effectively censor what the rest of the Parish can access on library shelves, including award-winning works long cherished by readers," Katie Schwartzmann, director of the Tulane First Amendment Law Clinic, wrote in a letter to the board in opposition to its policy. "Taking 150+ works off of library shelves violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. When done at the request of a handful of individuals (and primarily one), this is a classic example of a 'heckler's veto' repugnant to our nation's laws."
The sequestered books will be returned to their original spots in the library within 30 days.
California school district pulls two books after parent's complaint
Escondido (Calif.) Union School District has removed two of the most challenged books in the U.S. from its libraries following an audit to seek out and remove any non-age-appropriate material from its collections, reports The Coast News. The removed books are Juno Dawson's This Book Is Gay and John Green's Looking for Alaska.
The district closed libraries at all its elementary and middle school campuses in late September after a book "containing sexually explicit material" was found in one of its campus libraries. Library services were cut off until October 6 so library technicians could conduct an audit of its collections. Following the audit, the district removed Dawson's and Green's books.
The district maintains that its actions are consistent with the California Education Code, but it appears to go against its own policy of forming a 12-member committee consisting of parents and faculty to recommend how to approach a questioned book to the board.
"Closing the school libraries district-wide for an audit is nowhere in the policies," one parent said following an October 12 meeting. "This impacted the voice of other parents and staff to come together as a community to make this decision together."
School board in New Hampshire votes to keep book in libraries despite complaints
Dover (N.H.) School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to keep Barry Lyga's 2007 book, Boy Toy, in Dover High School's library after a resident attempted to have it removed, reports Foster's Daily Democrat. The book centers around a high school boy who was molested by a former teacher and the trauma he endures. The complainant claims that the book "encourages and promotes sexual abuse." It is not required reading for students and has been offered in the Dover High School library since 2008.
Lyga submitted emailed correspondence to the school district that was read into the record at the meeting.
"The book is based on in-depth research," Lyga wrote in part. "It was based on discussion with abuse survivors and law enforcement officials. [The complainant] claims that there is no value to this book; I have received communication over the years from teens who have told me how helpful the book was to them and understanding their own abuse or that of a peer."
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.