Standing at the podium with a young child on her hip, Irving’s Flory Malloy aimed at the public library. It was October 14, and the mother-of-seven, who has a doctorate in Bible studies, appeared before city council to complain, in part, about an LGBTQIA + book that some parents wanted to remove from the shelves.
It seemed to Malloy that the library book review process was against parents. She warned that if she continued on the same path, the library would degenerate into an “irrelevant institution.”
Soon, she said, parents would be taking their children elsewhere. “It’s already happening,” Malloy told the play. “Fortunately, not all libraries in the area are as ideologically driven as Irving’s was.”
Last week, The Texas Tribune reported that public libraries in towns like Irving, Tyler and Victoria are experiencing a wave of problems with books from disgruntled residents. Commissioners in Llano County, about 80 miles northwest of Austin, recently tasked local librarians to go through every children’s book to make sure it is “age appropriate.”
In recent months, Republican lawmakers in Texas have moved to ban certain books from public school libraries. Now some say the fury has also started to engulf municipal libraries.
In October, Fort Worth State Representative Matt Krause reported 850 pounds which he said could cause Texas students “discomfort, guilt, angst or some other form.” psychological distress because of their race or gender. The following month, Gov. Greg Abbott called on Texas education officials to remove pornography from public schools (librarians categorically deny providing charcoal).
“The Texas kids exposed to pornography in our public schools are appalling,” Abbott said in a Nov 10 tweet. “We will ensure that no college student in Texas is exposed to pornography.”
The children of Texas exposed to pornography in our public schools are appalling.
– Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 10, 2021
In recent months, some parents in Texas have asked librarians to adopt a more stringent selection process; some books, they say, shouldn’t be seen by young eyes. But now some librarians are sounding the alarm bells about what they see as a potential increase in state-sanctioned censorship.
Shirley Robinson, executive director of the Texas Library Association, said challenges with books are occurring in public schools and libraries in Texas. In some cases, some books are deleted outright, without due process.
In addition to books, public libraries provide community services, such as internet access, social centers and health care needs, Robinson said. An interruption in these services – as parts of the state have already known – means that some people will “fall through the cracks”.
“We are seeing a move beyond the normal operations of public and school libraries by entities that appear to be pursuing a narrative designed to question the professional expertise of librarians and administrators and create mistrust to promote a program,” said said Robinson. “It is an affront to democracy.”
“The mission of a library is to provide access to information to all users. – Director Jo Giudice, Dallas Public Library
Librarians are experts at choosing materials to meet the needs of all members of the community, Robinson said. It is important to remember that what is deemed appropriate for one community may not be appropriate for others.
Still, the Dallas Public Library had no book issues in 2021 and only saw one in 2020, director Jo Giudice said. Even though the library has a procedure in place for such a review, this rarely happens.
Either way, any kind of censorship is about Giudice. All library users have the right to read, view, borrow and listen to library materials, she said. Parents and guardians, on the other hand, are responsible for keeping track of what their children read.
The trend to ban certain children’s books from library shelves is already happening in small public library systems, she added. The freedom to read and access information serves as a guiding principle for librarians.
“Libraries have diverse collections with resources from many perspectives, and the mission of a library is to provide access to information for all users,” Giudice said. “I believe our strong collection development policy is our best defense when these challenges arise as well as when we live in a city that values diversity and fairness. ”
As libraries come under fire in Texas, the American Library Association (ALA) has also witnessed a “dramatic increase” in challenges and book deletions nationwide. In a statement, the ALA wrote that some have attempted to silence marginalized voices through intimidation and threats to the safety and livelihoods of library workers.
The organization’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has seen a recent upsurge in challenges. Since June, it has counted 155 “single censorship incidents” and the OIF has provided advice and support to 120.
“We are seeing an unprecedented volume of challenges in the fall of 2021,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of OIF. “In my twenty years with ALA, I can’t remember a time when we had multiple challenges to overcome on a daily basis.”