On January 9, North Dakota legislators Mike Lefor (R) and Vicky Steiner (R) introduced HB 1205, a bill threatening librarians with criminal prosecution for fulfilling their professional responsibility of curating library collections.
The American Library Association submitted testimony in opposition to the bill in advance of its first reading on January 17. The testimony was drafted through a partnership between the Office for Intellectual Freedom and the State Advocacy branch of the Public Policy and Advocacy office.
If enacted, HB 1205 would prevent libraries from meeting the information needs of their communities and would violate the rights of North Dakotans to access constitutionally protected materials. This would expose libraries and their governing bodies to potential lawsuits.
The bill also falsely asserts that the presence of any image relating to sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity renders a work inappropriate for readers, a claim that would disqualify countless works of classic and contemporary literature as well as works pertaining to health, wellbeing, and the sciences from library collections.
In their testimony, ALA states that “public libraries have a particular responsibility to operate in accordance with the First Amendment, which protects the right of every person to access and receive information in the public library, free from any governemnet censorship.”
The overwhelming majority of testimony provided at the hearing was in opposition to the bill.
The full text of ALA’s testimony is embedded below.