Georgia – In Georgia, a group of lawmakers is looking to end the state’s relationship with the American Library Association. This move is part of a larger dispute over what books are available in libraries, with some conservative legislators accusing the organization of influencing librarians to offer books with controversial themes to children.
Senator Larry Walker says the American Library Association is overly influenced by radical left ideas
State Senator Larry Walker, a Republican from Houston County, criticized the association for being overly influenced by what he perceives as radical left ideas, arguing that it should remain neutral.
“They seem to be a very radical left organization. It ought to be an apolitical organization,” said state Sen. Larry Walker, a Republican who represents Houston County.
The issue came to Walker’s attention when he learned that a library in his area had applied for a grant from the association to purchase books focusing on diversity, equity, inclusion, and LGBT topics for young adults. Walker expressed that, although he is generally tolerant, he feels this initiative is excessive. This event encouraged him to propose the bill.
“It’s just too much. At some point, I am a pretty tolerant individual, but it’s going too far,” Walker said.
At a Senate Committee on Government Oversight hearing, Walker acknowledged that he had not personally reviewed the books in question.
“It’s created a bureaucratic system that’s been weaponized as a decimation of a radicalized ideology which does not reflect the majority of our state,” he argued.
The proposed bill seeks to stop funding the American Library Association
The proposed legislation aims to prevent local and state governments from allocating funds to the American Library Association (ALA), a nonprofit organization established in the late 19th century that certifies librarian education programs and supports local libraries with various resources.
If passed, the bill would remove the requirement for library directors to hold a master’s degree from an ALA-accredited institution.
Retired librarian criticizes the bill, says alternative solution should be found
However, critics of the bill are raising concerns about its potential effects on freedom of speech.
“Libraries have always believed in information freedom. And I see this bill as a tipping point for our profession,” Retired librarian and educator Paula Galland told FOX 5.
Galland has spent roughly 50 years working in libraries and educational settings across metro Atlanta and Georgia. She emphasized that the ALA’s role in the library profession is primarily to ensure that librarians, whether working in public or school settings, receive high-quality training.
In light of the bill, Senator Walker suggested that an alternative accrediting body would need to be found for librarian education.
Walker’s proposal is one of two recent legislative efforts in Georgia aimed at librarians. Another bill under consideration in the state Senate could lead to librarians facing arrest for providing books to minors that state officials consider “harmful.”
States that have banned books in recent history
In places like Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Missouri, and Tennessee, there are now rules or policies that stop or limit certain books in libraries. These restrictions are often driven by opposition to LGBTQ and racial education topics, focusing on books about sexuality, gender identity, racism, and inequality. Many people who support freedom of speech, including librarians, teachers, and readers, are fighting against these bans. They argue that everyone should have the freedom to read and access the books and information they are interested in.
Florida banning books
Talking about Florida, it was at the forefront in 2022, taking away 386 books from schools, which is a lot more than any other state, including Texas. This was mainly due to complaints from parents and locals, as mentioned by the Florida Department of Education.
Yet, PEN America, an organization that supports free speech, has pointed out that the situation is even more severe. They found that over 1,406 books were banned in Florida’s schools during the 2022-23 academic year, out of a total of 3,362 book bans across the country. This was a 33% increase from the year before, with Florida’s actions making up 40% of these bans. Book bans are defined here as any time a book is taken off the shelves or made hard to get because people complained about its content, or due to decisions made by officials or government pressure.
The main reasons these books were banned in Florida include issues with violence, abuse, sexual content, racial content, and LGBTQ+ identities. Almost half of the banned books, 48%, were because they had violence or abuse in them. Books with themes about health, sexuality, race, and LGBTQ+ representation also saw a lot of bans.
This push to ban books is backed by around 50 groups across the country, including 284 chapters of Moms for Liberty, showing a large and coordinated effort to limit access to certain books in schools, especially noticeable in Florida.
Texas book banning policy
In 2021, Texas was at the top of the list for removing books from school libraries, focusing on books about race, racism, abortion, and LGBTQ topics, according to a report by PEN America. This organization, which supports free speech, found that Texas schools took out 801 books from 22 districts. Some books were banned more than once between July 2021 and June 2022, including well-known ones like “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, which deal with gender identity, racial issues, and LGBTQ experiences.
Suzanne Nossel, the head of PEN America, spoke against these bans, saying they turn schools into places of political conflict and harm the essential nature of open discussion that democracy needs.
Across the country, 1,648 different books were banned, many of them related to LGBTQ themes or featuring characters from diverse racial backgrounds. The fact that these bans mostly affected books that were not part of the required reading suggests an effort to reduce exposure to varied viewpoints.
After Texas, the states with the highest number of book bans were Florida and Pennsylvania. These bans are part of wider political arguments, including debates over critical race theory and what some criticize as “pornographic” content. In Texas, the push to censor books was partially sparked by an investigation by state Rep. Matt Krause into what schools were offering in their libraries. This led to campaigns by various groups and parents to take away certain books, limiting students’ access to a broad spectrum of literature and discussions on important topics like democracy, race, gender, and sexuality.
Book bans in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Tennessee
In Pennsylvania, 457 books were removed from the shelves, mostly in a single, conservative-leaning school district in York County. These actions were mainly driven by opposition to LGBTQ and racial education themes, focusing on books about sexuality, gender identity, racism, and inequality. However, after a lot of protests and negative feedback, the school board decided to lift the ban.
In Missouri, from August 2022 to August 2023, 333 books have been banned across at least 11 school districts, following a new law that makes it illegal to provide “explicit sexual material” in schools. This law requires school principals to handle complaints about books, a task previously managed by librarians. The range of banned books is wide, including biographies of artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, graphic novel versions of classic literature, and comics featuring characters like Batman, X-Men, and Watchmen.
Tennessee has enacted a law that allows a specially created state commission to enforce across-the-board bans on books that are challenged for containing content deemed “harmful to minors,” such as sexual themes, violence, or bad language. Critics argue that this law infringes on the First Amendment rights and is a form of censorship.