2022

From Book Banning to Broadband, What’s New in 2022?

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.

Two 8-track tapes stacked atop each other, the one on top read: Days of Future Passed.

Then and now: Banning Like it’s 1981

The last year, especially the last few months, has seen a dramatic increase in book challenges nationwide. This is alarming, as it should be; however, the timing of such an organized push repeats history with the same frequency as social challenges and advancements. The current wave of attempted censorship is a modern remake of a 1980s special that should have been left in the past.

Campbell County Courthouse

Special Prosecutor Rejects Criminal Complaint Filed Against Campbell County Public Library

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 words “Drag Queen Storytime” on a background of multicolored balloons

Drag Queen Storytime Continues to Stir Up Controversy as Well as Excitement Among Library Patrons

Since its creation in 2015, Drag Queen Storytime or Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH), as the official organization calls it, has gained as much negative attention as it has positive among library patrons and community members.. In 2019, 30 challenges were reported to the OIF for Drag Queen Storytimes and other Pride related events. But there are many Drag Queen Storytime fans and advocates out there as well, with LGBT-friendly churches stepping in to host events when libraries no longer can, to people coming to these events to show their love and support in the face of angry protesters. And while these programs tend to draw in big crowds because they are fun, they also have educational benefits as well.

Image includes the book cover of Call Me Max and The Murray School District logo with the words “LGBTQIA+ book challenge to the right of the images.

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bath Water: Challenges to Call Me Max and Equity Book Bundles in Murray School District

A challenge to the book Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff, a picture book about a transgender child, led to the Murray School District in Murray Utah temporarily suspending their equity book bundle program. The equity book bundle program is a program to help provide teachers with more diverse titles, particularly racially diverse titles, to add to their curriculum. Call Me Max is not part of the equity book bundle program, which has led to many questioning why the school district made the decision to put the program on hold in light of the challenge.