Most state legislative sessions are wrapping up this time of year, so it’s time to revisit bills introduced in Indiana, Iowa, Tennessee, and Idaho that would allow librarians to be criminally charged over materials in the library collection and check their status.
Amidst widespread book challenges and removal of materials in libraries across the United States, people may ask “how can I continue to exercise my freedom to read such materials?” This question may be easy to answer for us librarians, but many people may not be aware of other methods to access such materials and exercise their rights without purchasing materials themselves. Therefore, it is important to make sure your own library patrons and community are aware of these 5 opportunities to still access books if they are removed from your local library.
Happy Birthday to graphic novelist and cartoonist Raina Telgemeier! Anyone that has worked in a public or school library within the past 10 years probably hasn’t gone a week without a young reader looking for Smile or Drama. A winner of five Eisner Awards, Telgemeier has effectively engaged adolescent readers through telling relatable stories through the graphic medium.
Both the Indiana and Iowa State Legislatures have introduced legislation regarding criminally charging libraries and librarians over “inappropriate” material. These bills are closely related to widespread book challenges occurring at schools and public libraries across the nation, with people trying to remove books that address certain topics relating to gender, sexuality, and race from library collections. In many cases there is already a clear process for reconsidering materials in a collection, so how do legal defenses play a role in this and what do the bills change?
Issues relating to intellectual freedom continue to dominate news stories, including debates on critical race theory, LGTBQ materials, academic freedom, and broadband access. In the past several months various state governments have passed bills targeting school curriculum. Fueled by misinterpretations of Critical Race Theory, this has led to numerous attempts to censor or ban books that discuss race. Books discussing gender and sexuality, mainly those with LGBTQ themes, have also been targeted such as when residents in Wyoming attempted to file criminal charges against library staff. Academic freedom of faculty on college campuses are also under fire, whether for curriculum concerns (related to aforementioned bills targeting Critical Race Theory) or for providing expertise outside their capacity as an educator. Broadband access continues to be an issue as many Americans continue to rely on the internet for work, education, or various other essential functions.
Book challenges have been a hot topic in news and politics lately. The American Library Association (ALA) Executive Board recently released a statement affirming its opposition to widespread efforts to censor books in U.S. Schools. OIF has tracked 155 unique censorship incidents between June 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021. With the high volume of challenges right now, OIF has made available a clearinghouse of resources on its Fight Censorship page.
In late September, the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office in Gillette, Wyoming received a report alleging criminal activity at the Campbell County Public Library. Community members believed that the library board and library director committed a crime by disseminating obscene material. This is based on Wyoming Statute 6-2-318, which states “anyone who has reached the age of majority and who solicits, procures or knowingly encourages anyone less than the age of fourteen years, or a person purported to be less than the age of fourteen years, to engage in sexual intrusion.” Violation of this law would result in a felony conviction and a maximum five-year sentence. The alleged illegal act was having books in the library’s young adult and children’s section that discussed reproduction, sex, and LGBTQIA issues.
The First Amendment (to the United States Constitution) is often referenced in today’s society, but without being prompted can you name all five freedoms that are protected? This was part of a survey administered for The First Amendment: Where America Stands, a project from the Freedom Forum. Freedom Forum, as an organization, strives to raise awareness of First Amendment freedoms through education, advocacy, and action. This project surveyed over 3,000 Americans in summer 2020, asking them more than 200 questions to provide a detailed analysis of how people differ on the relevance of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
In December 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act which distributed $7 billion to increase broadband access in the United States. $3.2 billion was apportioned to create the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) detailed provisions of an Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) which included over $7.1 billion to support remote learning in schools and libraries. The ECF program focuses on schools and libraries, helping fund costs of laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and other connectivity equipment. These funds are available to a wide range of libraries, including public, school, tribal, academic, research, and private libraries, in addition to library consortiums.
While having a library card typically means borrowing materials free of cost, many of us were made aware young that we would have to pay a fine if we missed the due date. Many libraries across the United States have implemented a fine-free borrowing structure, which encourages more people to utilize the library’s resources.