Current book bans threaten the future existence of libraries

By Mikayla Silcox

Elm Staff Writer

With the uptick in intense book bans, libraries face a potential threat of losing government funds.

Libraries serve as a public resource, but they are losing funding due to their attempts to protect literature from the censorship of certain voices.

41% of banned books involve the LGBTQ+ community and 40% include characters of color, according to Pen America. Book bans are not for the protection of children, but rather a further attempt to devalue people’s identities, following laws such as the “Don’t Say Gay” and “Anti-Drag” bills, as well as the intense focus on critical race theory.

Libraries help educate, make people feel less alone, and introduce new perspectives. Book bans are detaching libraries from their mission statement, and librarians and communities are fighting against it.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Missouri Association of School Librarians, and the Missouri Library Association challenged a new Missouri law in April, banning sexually explicit material from schools, claiming it to be unconstitutional.

In retaliation to this threat to censorship, the Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith announced that his budget would cut the $4.5 million in state funding allotted for libraries next year, according to CBC. While the Senate did not pass this, the threat of defunding libraries shows where government officials’ priorities lay.

Similarly, according to USA Today, the Patmos Library, a library in Detroit, Michigan, is on the verge of closing, as the Jamestown Charter Township voted to remove taxpayer funding following the staff’s refusal to remove books with LGBTQ+ themes.

At this rate, with the defunding of libraries that transcends just book banning, lawmakers are taking any form of free information, ideas, and education out of the hands of the public.

“It’s part of our first amendment right. You cannot have full freedom of expression without being able to inquire. Freedom to access that information is crucial. All types of libraries are that link to that access,” Public Services Librarian Andrea Boothby Rice said.

Libraries are a right to public knowledge, and thankfully, library staff throughout the country are making a bold, yet necessary, stand against book banning laws.

According to CNN, the Texas Llano County Library has been fighting the Commissioners Court for a year on the preface of banned books. After threats to close this month, the library is finally seeing books such as “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen” by Jazz Jennings resurface on the shelves.

The deconstruction of libraries is detrimental on various accounts, including the stripping of free public knowledge and denying the public access to free Wi-Fi and technology that many communities rely on. This is a fight that we cannot stop fighting.

While the deconstruction of libraries would be detrimental on various accounts, including the stripping of free public knowledge and denying the public access to free Wi-Fi and technology that many communities rely on, this fight is one that we cannot stop fighting.

“Libraries are a social centering of space. It’s a space for forums to fill out your taxes, health information, [and] early literacy. There [is] crucial access to ideas, programs, and anything someone might need to participate fully in their role as a citizen,” Rice said.

People rely on libraries and getting rid of them would impair citizens’ education in both a broad sense and through education needed for people to survive.

From the 2021-2022 school year alone, 1,600 books were banned in 5,000 schools, and community members are encouraged to create lists that ban even more, according to NBCNews.

At a public library in Gillette, Wyoming, community members filed a criminal report through the sheriff’s office accusing the library staff of providing obscene material, with a list of books with LGBTQ+ material, according to The New York Times.

Free education is now manipulated to give the public limited points of view if it is all cherry-picked by lawmakers.

What is really important to the government? The protection of children from seeing diverse content, or teaching children an unconstitutional and biased point of view that aligns with those in power?

Libraries are a fundamental right for the public to access, and the government censorship and defunding alongside these resources is a close-minded act of governmental control.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo Caption:Many libraries across the country are threatening to close in response to an uptick in book bans and lack of funding.

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