Diane Ravitch's blog

Texas: Public Libraries Become Targets for Conservative Critics

Thanks to reader Kathyirwin1 for bringing this article to my attention. Egged on by Governor Gregg Abbott and legislator Matt Krause (who circulated a list of 850 books that should be removed from public school libraries, most because they deal with race, sexuality or inequality), critics are now targeting the books in the public libraries.

The public library in Llano County closed for three days while librarians reviewed their holdings. Libraries in other counties saw challenges to books that conservatives want removed from shelves.

Local public libraries in Texas, including those in Victoria, Irving and Tyler, are fielding a flurry of book challenges from local residents. While book challenges are nothing new, there has been a growing number of complaints about books for libraries in recent months. And the fact that the numbers are rising after questions are being raised about school library content seems more than coincidental, according to the Texas Library Association.

“I think it definitely ramped it up,” said Wendy Woodland, the TLA’s director of advocacy and communication, of the late October investigation into school library reading materials launched by state Rep. Matt Krause in his role as chair of the House Committee on General Investigating.

In response to Krause’s inquiry, Gov. Greg Abbott tapped the Texas Education Agency to investigate the availability of “pornographic books” in schools. In the weeks since, school districts across the state have launched reviews of their book collections, and state officials have begun investigating student access to inappropriate content…

In Victoria, about 100 miles southeast of San Antonio, Dayna Williams-Capone says the number of complaints about books is the most she’s seen in her nearly 13 years working at the Victoria Public Library.

In August, Williams-Capone, the director of library services in Victoria, said her office received about 40 formal requests for review of books, primarily books for children and young adults that touch on topics of same-sex relationships, sexuality and race.

After Williams-Capone and her staff reviewed the requests, they decided to keep the books in the library. Residents who filed the complaints pushed forward, appealing the decision to the library’s advisory board for about half of the books, Williams-Capone said.

Last Wednesday, the library’s board voted not to remove the books from library shelves.

Most of the complaints are directed at books that feature same-sex relationships.

Wendy Woodland of the Texas Library Association said that:

“These efforts to mute or censor diverse voices in books is part of the just overall extreme divisiveness in our country that was really just exacerbated by the pandemic, [and] the actions taken by Rep. Krause and others have added fuel to that,” Woodland said.

She understands there will be those who may not like all of the books in a library. That’s not the point of a public library, she said.

“No book is right for everyone, but one book can make a big difference in one person’s life,” she said. “That’s what libraries are about — providing those windows and doors and mirrors to the community.”