With Further Ado #280: Banning the Book Bans

I was encouraged to read in AXIOS how Illinois is fighting book bans:

No Book Bans

Illinois became to the first state to pass a law penalizing libraries that ban books last year, as conservative efforts have mounted to restrict access to text often address LGBTQ+ issues.

• Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a bill now in effect that makes public libraries ineligible for state funding if they ban materials because of “partisan or doctrinal” disapproval

Of the more thank 1,400 book ban cases last year, 74% were connected to organized efforts of advocacy groups, elected officials, or enacted legislation, per PEN America.

• The organization recommended that policymakers, school boards and district administrators consider the many reasons for including and celebrating books rather than restricting them.

Heidi MacDonald had talked about this initiative when it was just a bill in June of last year on Publisher’s Weekly. As she noted, comics are especially vulnerable to censorship. I’m concerned about the librarians of this country too – as the fear is that they will be labeled unjustly in during these censorship fights.

MacDonald outlined some of the challenges for librarians:

A Chilling Effect

Librarians have always been aware that comics are vulnerable to censorship. The visual medium can make taboo material literally more visible—and easier to take out of context, as shown by the claims that Gender Queer is obscene based on a single panel. But “comics are extra vulnerable for challenges, because you already have situations in which the library as a whole is generally not advocating for comics as ‘real reading,’ ” says Amie Wright, the head of GNCRT’s Addressing Challenges Committee and a former manager at the New York Public Library.

The struggle is taking a toll. Accused of promoting child pornography and being abusers or “groomers,” librarians—especially school librarians—often feel isolated or burned-out. There is a chilling effect, the full extent of which is hard to measure.

“People are afraid,” Trexler says. “I get messages all the time asking, ‘Am I going to get arrested for buying this book or shelving that one?’ ”

I hope this law makes it just tough enough so that all the Book Ban types will find it too difficult and just spend their time elsewhere. And then I hope other states follow suit.