New laws aim to prevent book bans

Concerns Arise Over Penalties Faced by Libraries Amid Bills Against Book Bans

Bills aimed at stopping book bans are gaining popularity in various state legislatures, leading to concerns about their impact on libraries. Last year, the American Library Association reported a significant increase in banned books, with over 4,200 titles affected.

Many of these books dealt with issues of race, LGBTQ themes, violence, or sexual content. In response, states like New York, New Jersey, and others are introducing legislation to counteract these bans, following the lead of Illinois and California, which have already passed such laws.

However, there’s worry that some of this legislation, which might penalize school districts or cut library funding if they don’t comply, could harm public schools and libraries, especially those that are already struggling with funding and staff.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone from the American Library Association expressed concern that these laws shouldn’t be too strict, as they could make it hard for smaller or rural libraries to get funding. She pointed out that budget issues could lead to misunderstandings, like when books are mistakenly thought to be banned because they’re damaged or there’s not enough money to replace them.

Illinois’ law, for example, requires libraries to adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights to be eligible for state grants.

This is meant to ensure that books aren’t banned due to unpopular opinions.

State Sen. Laura Murphy, who co-sponsored the bill, argued that this approach holds libraries accountable and supports librarians in keeping a diverse range of books available.

Emily Knox, a professor at the University of Illinois, believes that tying funding to the bill’s compliance is crucial for its effectiveness, arguing that it ensures the law has real impact.

She disagrees with the idea that this could be used against libraries for not having specific books, saying that the law’s wording prevents such misuse.


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