Archives for category: Librarians

Sara Stevenson was a librarian in an Austin, Texas, middle school. The following opinion piece was published in the Fort Worth Telegram.

When schools went remote at the beginning of the coronavirus era, parents were briefly in awe at teachers’ patience and skills.

As schools remained closed and parents grew angry, educators quickly fell from grace, and 370,000 have left the profession since the beginning of the pandemic.

Even at that, school librarians experienced the steepest fall.

During my 15 years as a public middle-school librarian, I frequently received affirmation for my vocation to encourage young people to read.

But ever since then-Rep. Matt Krause of Fort Worth published a list of 750 questionable books in fall 2021, Texas librarians have been put on the defensive.

School librarians fully support parents’ rights to monitor their children’s reading choices. In fact, some parents use the selection of library books as a way to facilitate conversations and even read books together.

Problems arise when particular parents try to usurp this role from the professionally trained librarians and decide which books belong or don’t belong in the library — not just for their kids but for all children.

School librarians in Texas are required to hold master’s degrees (or be working towards them) as well as teaching certificates and are charged with curating their library collections.

Each school population has different age levels, interests, needs and community standards, and the librarian’s duty is to choose suitable titles while making sure many points of view are represented.

A book’s inclusion in a library is not a librarian’s endorsement of the content. The book is there to provide access and choice.

Now, several Texas House members have introduced bills that would directly affect school libraries.

House Bill 338, filed by Republican Rep. Tom Oliverson of Cypress, would skip the role of the librarian altogether by putting the onus directly on the book publishers. Under this measure, publishers would have to rate every book for age appropriateness and display these ratings on their covers.

The labels wouldn’t just rate for sexual content; they would even warn if a book might be too scary for a child younger than 7.

How can anyone possibly decide this for all children? How would Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” be rated? It has monsters, yes, but it’s also adorable.

The consequence for a publisher’s failure to include the rating would be that its books will not be available for school libraries to purchase.

This demand on private companies certainly seems like overreach, and it would significantly slow down the process of getting new books into the hands of eager readers.

And once again, we are faced with the question of who decides. Is it the publisher, who may be quite liberal or overly strict in standards? Will the publisher hire readers to count “dirty words” and “inappropriate” or “scary” scenes, or will the book be judged as a whole? Will every parent in every Texas community agree with these ratings? And why bypass the professional librarian in this process?

At the other end of the pendulum, we have House Bill 552 from Republican Rep. Ellen Troxclair of Austin. This law would remove the education protection clause, “repealing the affirmative defense to prosecution for the criminal offense of sale, distribution, or display of harmful material to a minor.”

This stems from the accusation that certain librarians are “groomers” for sexual deviancy.

This threat will affect the contents of libraries, causing librarians to self-censor and limit books with mature or controversial themes, LGBT characters or racial conflict.

Librarians cannot possibly read through every book acquired, so they will err on the side of safety and limit the choices of their students, especially when threatened with arrest.

During the last year and a half, I’ve watched clips of school board meetings that have been hijacked by Moms for Liberty and other organizations that ironically seek to curtail the liberty of students to select and parents to monitor their children’s reading choices.

When schools have to compete with Tik Tok and every new app that comes along to get children to read in the first place, this manufactured fight against libraries is not just misdirected but harmful.

If you want to protect kids from bad influences, take away their phones, not their library books.

Read more at:

Jeffrey Fleishman of the Los Angeles Times describes the assault on librarians by rightwing groups and parents who want to ban books. Across the country, but especially in red states, librarians are vilified as “the arm of Satan” by those who want to control what books are on the library shelves. If you want to read a concise summary of book-banning, read my book The Language Police, published by Knopf.

He writes:

In her time as a Texas school librarian, Carolyn Foote watched the image of her profession veer from “shrinking violets behind spectacles” cataloging titles to “pedophiles and groomers” out to pollute the minds of the nation’s youth.

“Librarians came from a climate of being so appreciated to hearing this message that we’re reviled,” said Foote, co-founder of Freadom Fighters, an advocacy group for librarians that has nearly 15,000 Twitter followers. “It was an astonishing turn of events.” A lot of librarians are asking themselves whether they want to remain in the profession, she added. “At least five people I know have retired early.”

Once a comforting presence at story circle and book fairs, librarians have been condemned, bullied and drawn into battles over censorship as school and library boards face intensifying pressure from conservatives seeking to ban books exploring racial and LGBTQ themes. Those voices have grown stronger in red states since the pandemic, when parental groups opposed to mask mandates expanded their sights and became more involved in how and what their children were taught.

Recent polls suggest most Americans are not in favor of banning books. But concentrated pressure by politically connected parental groups, said Peter Bromberg, a board member at EveryLibrary, a nonprofit library advisory group, “has librarians facing a great deal of stress. There are signs on people’s lawns calling librarians pedophiles.” They face pressure from principals and administrators over book displays, and “neighbors talk about them being an arm of Satan.”

Books are displayed at the Patmos Library

The Patmos Library in Jamestown, Mich., which lost public funding after a campaign by conservatives, forcing it to rely on donations.

(Joshua Lott / Washington Post via Getty Images)

Some librarians are fighting back; others have lost or left their jobs. The culture wars over books come at a time when about 27% of public libraries have reduced staff because of budget cuts and other reasons, according to a 2021 national survey. Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozado, president of the American Library Assn., said librarians’ problems are compounded by attacks that are part of an effort “seeking to abolish diverse ideas and erode this country of freedom of expression. I see it as the dismantling of education.”


A number of school board meetings in recent years have become explosive and emblematic of the country’s political animosities. Parents yell, boo, shake fists and hold up sexually graphic images in dramas that play out on social media. Similar scenes have erupted at public libraries, including at the Patmos Library in western Michigan, where at least two librarians have quit amid pressure and harassment from residents demanding the removal of LGBTQ books and young adult graphic novels.

(Joshua Lott / Washington Post via Getty Images)

At the library’s December board meeting, librarian Jean Reicher denounced critics a week after the building closed early over fears for the staff’s safety. She said that signs around town labeled her a pedophile and that she’d received abusive phone calls and had iPhones pointed at her. Her emotional retort came a month after a campaign led by conservatives succeeded in defunding the library, forcing it to rely on donations.

“We have been threatened. We have been cursed,” said Reicher. “How dare you people. You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. You have said I’ve sexualized your children. I’m grooming your children.”

She raised her hands. Her anger welled.

“I have six grandkids out there,” she said, ticking off the offenses aimed at her. “I moved to this town 2½ years ago, and I regret it every day for the last year. This has been horrible,” she continued. “I wasn’t raised this way. I believe in God. I’m a Catholic. I’m a Christian. I’m everything you are.”

School and library boards are encountering demands from conservative lawmakers and parental groups, such as Moms for Liberty and Mama Bears Rising, and in a few instances the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys, to scour libraries of what they consider upsetting pornographic and LGBTQ depictions. Many conservatives criticize schools as overrun with progressive ideas that are confusing children about race and gender.

“By exposing our children to adult concepts such as gender identity we are asking them to carry a load that is much too heavy for them,” Kit Hart, a Moms for Liberty member, said in a video posted last year from a school board meeting in Carroll County, Md. “A 10-year-old should not be reduced to his sexuality.”

A video posted on the Moms for Liberty website shows another one of its members outlining her concerns at a public meeting in Mecklenburg, N.C.: “Parents beware of terms like social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion. Those inherently good things are being used to disguise a biased political agenda,” she said. “Our schools are becoming indoctrination camps and a breeding ground for hatred and division.”

Florida and other states have placed tougher restrictions on books that schools can stock. A Missouri law passed last year makes it a crime for a school to provide sexually explicit material to a student. After a discrimination complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a Texas school district after a superintendent directed librarians to remove LGBTQ-related books.

“We have been thrown to the forefront of the cultural wars whether we want to be there or not,” said Amanda Jones, a middle school librarian in Livingston Parish, La., who last year broke out in hives and fell into depression after she was threatened for speaking against censorship. “It’s not fun to be vilified in your small town or the country at large. It’s all related to their using political fear and outrage. And they’re using children to do it.”

Jones was skewered by conservative activists, including Citizens for a New Louisiana, after she warned at a library meeting that “hate and fear disguised as moral outrage have no place in Livingston Parish.” A picture of her appeared online with a red circle around her head — resembling a target — and she was called a pig and a supporter of teaching anal sex to 11-year-olds. Someone suggested she should be slapped.

Martha Hickson, a high school librarian in Annandale, N.J., endured similar stress and said she lost 12 pounds in one week after she was accused by a parent at a school board meeting of being a groomer by providing graphic novels and memoirs, such as “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, that could influence children toward “heinous acts.”

“What really stung was that my name was used in that context,” said Hickson, 63,who in 2020 received the American Assn. of School Librarians’ Intellectual Freedom Award. “It was devastating. I broke down and I couldn’t stop crying.” She couldn’t catch her breath, she said, and “couldn’t speak in full sentences. I cracked two teeth from grinding and was fitted with a night guard. I go to the pool now and swim three times a week. It washes the stress away.”

Jessica Brassington, head of the Texas-based Mama Bears Rising, which advocates for increased parental oversight in education, said her intent is not to rebuke librarians or teachers but to get stricter state guidelines on selecting school books in what she sees as a broader war against her Christian faith.

“We want to protect our children. We’ve seen the dark side of what can happen beyond the book. Suicide. Alienation,” said Brassington, whose organization has pressed for the removal of books in school districts and warned against children being indoctrinated by an “evil” sexual agenda. “We want to know what books are available to our children. … The parents are being bypassed.”


Calls to ban certain books in schools have arisen for generations among liberal and conservative parents, educators and activist groups. Classics such as Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” have been pulled from reading lists. Books deemed to be obscene such as “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Tropic of Cancer” were censored for decades. In the 1980s, well-funded and organized groups like the Christian right Moral Majority condemned books on secular humanism.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed laws to restrict school instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation.

(Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Those battles echo today and have accelerated as religious conservatives and right-leaning politicians, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have backed bills to limit school instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation. Of the 1,648 titles banned in schools across the country in the 2021-22 school year, according to a PEN America study, 41% had prominent LGBTQ characters or explicitly explored LGBTQ themes.

“It’s hard to compare this to anything other than the Red Scare in the 1950s,” said Foote, a retired high school librarian of 29 years who was named a Champion of Change by President Obama. “There’s nothing else remotely close to this.”

Open the link and read the rest of the article. It might be behind a paywall. I subscribe to the Los Angeles Times. It’s a terrific newspaper.

NBC reports that North Dakota may impose a ban on sexually explicit books, especially those that refer to gender identity, on public libraries. Librarians who ignore the proposed ban will be subject to 30 days in jail. Since the bill was introduced by the House Majority Leader, it may pass.

Books containing “sexually explicit” content — including depictions of sexual or gender identity — would be banned from North Dakota public libraries under legislation that state lawmakers began considering Tuesday.

The GOP-dominated state House Judiciary Committee heard arguments but did not take a vote on the measure, which applies to visual depictions of “sexually explicit” content and proposes up to 30 days imprisonment for librarians who refuse to remove the offending books….

Library Director Christine Kujawa at Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library said the library has a book with two little hamsters on the cover. At the end of the book, the hamsters get married, and they are both male.

“It’s a cute book,” Kujawa said — but it would be considered pornography under the bill because the book includes gender identity.

Facing criminal charges for keeping books on shelves is “something I never thought I would have to consider during my career as a librarian,” Kujawa added.

In addition to banning depictions of “sexual identity” and “gender identity,” the measure specifies 10 other things that library books cannot visually depict, including “sexual intercourse,” “sexual preference” and “sexual perversion,” — though it does not define any of those terms. The proposal does not apply to books that have “serious artistic significance” or “materials used in science courses,” among other exceptions.

Thanks to Christine Langhoff for suggesting this article.

David C. Berliner is one of the most honored researchers in the field of education.

He sent the following reflections on censorship. His thoughts reflect my views about censorship and abortion. If you are opposed to certain books, don’t read them. If you oppose abortion, don’t have one. Don’t impose your views on others.

Dr. Berliner wrote:

I was asked some time ago to write about censorship for the Horace Mann League. My explorations of the topic led me first to a personal statement:

“It is the right of people to not listen to, and not read, anything they find offensive. But this right is limited: it does not give them the right to limit what others choose to hear or read. It gives concerned citizens absolutely no right to forbid anyone else to listen to or read what they choose.

The only exception to this statement is with one’s own children. Parents do have both a right, and an obligation, to react to what their children are listening to and reading.

But that right and obligation is limited to their own children—not mine! I will make such decisions for myself. And I happen to trust school teachers, and librarians, to act for me, to act in “locus parentis.”

And I hope that every librarian and teacher is thoughtful enough to remember that merely avoiding certain discussions is itself a form of censorship!”

David C. Berliner

Some of the thoughts of others that I thought worth thinking about follow:

“The real heroes [in our society] are the librarians and teachers who at no small risk to themselves refuse to lie down and play dead for censors.”
― Bruce Coville

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
― Salman Rushdie

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
― Joseph Brodsky

“Free societies…are societies in motion, and with motion comes tension, dissent, friction. Free people strike sparks, and those sparks are the best evidence of freedom’s existence.”
― Salman Rushdie

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
― United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.”
― Clare Luce Booth

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book…”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”
― Benjamin Franklin

“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.”
― Mark Twain

[I]t’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”
― Judy Blume

“Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory… In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man’s freedom.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

“If you can’t say “Fuck” you can’t say, “Fuck the government.”
― Lenny Bruce

“Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.”
― Laurie Halse Anderson

“All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.”
― George Bernard Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession

“[Public] libraries should be open to all—except the censor.
[Response to questionnaire in Saturday Review, October 29 1960]”
― John F. Kennedy


“Only the nonreader fears books. ”
― Richard Peck

“Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and always will be the last resort of the boob and the bigot.”
― Eugene Gladstone O’Neill

“If there’s one American belief I hold above all others, it’s that those who would set themselves up in judgment on matters of what is “right” and what is “best” should be given no rest; that they should have to defend their behavior most stringently. … As a nation, we’ve been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn’t approve of them.”
[Bangor Daily News, Guest Column of March 20, 1992]”
― Stephen King

“When the Washington Post telephoned me at home on Valentine’s Day 1989 to ask my opinion about the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwah, I felt at once that here was something that completely committed me. It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved. In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual, and the defense of free expression. Plus, of course, friendship—though I like to think that my reaction would have been the same if I hadn’t known Salman at all. To re-state the premise of the argument again: the theocratic head of a foreign despotism offers money in his own name in order to suborn the murder of a civilian citizen of another country, for the offense of writing a work of fiction. No more root-and-branch challenge to the values of the Enlightenment (on the bicentennial of the fall of the Bastille) or to the First Amendment to the Constitution, could be imagined. President George H.W. Bush, when asked to comment, could only say grudgingly that, as far as he could see, no American interests were involved…”
― Christopher Hitchens,

“The important task of literature is to free man, not to censor him, and that is why Puritanism was the most destructive and evil force which ever oppressed people and their literature: it created hypocrisy, perversion, fears, sterility.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947

“Every burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series

“Fear of corrupting the mind of the younger generation is the loftiest form of cowardice.”
― Holbrook Jackson

“Censors never go after books unless kids already like them. I don’t even think they know to go after books until they know that children are interested in reading this book, therefore there must be something in it that’s wrong.”
― Judy Blume

“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. In the long run it will create a generation incapable of appreciating the difference between independence of thought and subservience.”
― Henry Steele Commager

“Our freedoms are vanishing. If you do not get active to take a stand now against all that is wrong while we still can, then maybe one of your children may elect to do so in the future, when it will be far more riskier — and much, much harder.”
― Suzy Kassem

“I also hold very strong personal convictions about censorship. I don’t believe in forbidden knowledge.”
― Andrea Cremer

Political battles over book are heating up in Missouri. This seems to be the right time to ban books like 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Slaughterhouse Five. Will Fahrenheit 451 be banned too? Why is it missing?

The Missouri law on banning books was enacted in August. Missouri law 775 sets the guidelines, starting on page 51. The law prohibits books with visual representations of sexual activity a.k.a. pornography. It is a very specific definition.

Legislators visual representations only (not “art” or “anthropological”). They lost the CRT battle and needed something like this in law. They avoided the battle over the written word and content, just pictures. Graphic novels took the hit. Teachers and any school adult can be charged for distributing a censored book.

The conservative strategy is get the door open for book banning and then it will swing wide open to written word and content this year.

Below are four articles – St. Louis Post Dispatch (with lists) and KC Star

Of course, there were no guidelines from the State.

Sept 27

KIRKWOOD — About 15 parents and students spoke out Monday against the Kirkwood School District’s recent book bans, including a comic book adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984,” the cautionary tale about government mind control.

At least 114 book bans have been enacted in schools across St. Louis this fall in response to a new state law prohibiting “explicit sexual material” — defined as any visual depiction of sex acts or genitalia, with exceptions for artistic or scientific significance — provided to students in public or private schools.

Sept 25   

‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’: KC area schools now ban these books and more BY SARAH RITTER UPDATED OCTOBER 03, 2022 9:39 AM

ST. LOUIS — The 97 books banned in schools across St. Louis this fall cover topics like anatomy, photography and the Holocaust. There are books that are also popular TV series, including “Game of Thrones,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Walking Dead” and “Watchmen.”

And as life imitates art, Kirkwood School District banned a comic book adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984,” the cautionary tale about government mind control.

Aug 25

JEFFERSON CITY — With a new crop of hard-right Republicans expected to join the Missouri Senate, some Democrats are worried that the upper chamber’s priorities will swing more to the right in the next legislative session.

Conservative wish list items such as bans on transgender student athletes and legislation that targets school curriculum have failed to pass in previous years amid infighting among Republicans. But Senate Democrats say those policies could have enough momentum in the coming years with more hard-right members joining the upper chamber.

For months now, a handful of books dealing with LGBTQ themes have been targeted by Kansas City area conservative parent groups and politicians.

Conservative groups have demanded the removal of books on LGBTQ themes from public school libraries, but the censorship is expanding to other titles that someone finds objectionable. The Handmaid’s Tale, for example, has no LGBTQ content. It’s about a dystopian society in which women have no rights. But it’s being pulled from library shelves, and librarians are facing stiff fines if they defy the law.

But facing a new Missouri law, some schools have now removed a much wider array of books from library shelves, including “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Watchmen” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The law, which bans sexually explicit material from schools and went into effect in late August, is tucked into a larger bill addressing sexual assault survivors’ rights. Librarians or other school employees who violate the law could be charged with a misdemeanor, risking up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine.

In response, several school libraries have pulled at least 20 book titles in districts on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metro, according to reports provided to The Star through open records requests.

The legislation specifically prohibits images in school materials that could be considered sexually explicit, such as depictions of genitals or sex acts. As a result, most of the banned books are graphic novels. The law does provide some exceptions, such as for works of art or science textbooks.

Proponents argue the legislation will protect children from inappropriate content and indoctrination. “In schools all across the country, we’ve seen this disgusting and inappropriate content making its way into our classrooms,” state Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, said in a statement after the legislation passed. “Instead of recognizing this as the threat it is, some schools are actually fighting parents to protect this filth. The last place our children should be seeing pornography is in our schools.”

But others warn that such bans violate students’ First Amendment rights and mainly target books that feature LGBTQ relationships, people of color and diverse viewpoints.

“You don’t see people trying to ban any books that are on the far conservative end. So I think at this point, what we’re seeing is a kind of protracted political strategy,” said Joe Kohlburn, chair of the Missouri Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee. “It feels very targeted to folks who identify as LGBTQ, or (people of color) or women. If you see your library is removing ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ that tells you something very specific. And I don’t think that’s an accident.”

Before the bill’s passage, conservative politicians, action committees and parent groups in the Kansas City metro spearheaded challenges to school library books, mostly featuring racially diverse or LGBTQ characters. It’s a trend seen across the country, with the American Library Association reporting that the number of attempts to ban or restrict books this year is on track to exceed last year’s total, which was the highest in decades.

Librarians have raised concerns over harassment, with some questioning whether to stay in their jobs. Tom Bastian, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, called the book challenges an attempt to “whitewash viewpoints and perspectives of historically marginalized communities.”

Read more at:

Nancy Flanagan taught music for many years in Michigan. She draws on her deep experience in this post to set the record straight about what parents really want from their schools.

Extremist groups funded by rightwing autocrats claim to speak for parents, but they use their platform to spread propaganda and lies. They say they speak for “parental rights,” but they spread fear, distrust and lies.

John Gibbs, the Republican candidate for Congress in western Michigan, said that:

Folks, did you ever think that one day in America, we’d have to worry about schools putting obscene books in their libraries? This is simply insane–we must stop the madness. Voters overwhelmingly oppose sexually explicit books in public school libraries.

Flanagan answers Gibbs:

Well—folks. I’m not worried about obscene or sexually explicit books in public school libraries. Because there is no madness, no insanity, no pornography in school libraries.

Teachers and school leaders also overwhelmingly oppose sexually explicit books in school libraries. The word we use is ‘inappropriate’—materials are selected by trained school media specialists, who know inappropriate when they see it.

The entire slate of MI Republicans running for statewide or national office, not just Gibbs, is hell-bent on insisting that schools have become (in the past two years) hotbeds of sexual orientation and gender identity transformation, not to mention racial tension and guilt-inducement. They are led in this effort by the Republican candidate for Governor, Tudor Dixon.

Gibbs goes on to say, on behalf of Republican candidate for Governor in Michigan, Tudor Dixon:

What Tudor wants to accomplish is very simple and common sense. She wants to get radical sex and gender theory out of our schools, remove classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity for grades K-3, make sure gender specific sports remain gender specific given biological differences in boys vs. girls and post all curriculum online for parents to see and be involved in their child’s education. Every child deserves a world class education and parents should be in charge of it.

Flanagan answers:

So let’s break this down.

Radical sex and gender theory? (Not a part of the curriculum in any school I’ve been in.)

Classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for the littles? (Likewise—nope, nope.)

Gender specific sports? (The Michigan High School Athletic Association has a policy adopted in 2012 that determines post-season tournament eligibility for transgender athletes on a case-by-case basis. The group received and approved 10 applications in the past five years—so this is hardly a burning statewide issue.)

Post all curriculum online? (Sure. Most districts post their standards framework—what gets taught, when– and public high schools in Michigan have adapted the Michigan Merit Curriculum.)

Every child deserves a world class education and parents should be in charge of it. (Right out of the Glenn Youngkin playbook, a statement like this, which is mostly true, really resonates.)

But here’s the truth (from 32 years of classroom experience): What bubbles up in classroom discussions and playgrounds is what’s on the minds of the kids in that classroom. This starts early, in Tudor Dixon’s forbidden zone, grades K-3—like this story about the boy who chose a ‘Frozen’ backpack.

Kids are curious and they’re paying attention to what their parents and their screens (and their friends, and their older siblings) are telling them. I taught music and math, two subjects you’d think were pretty straightforward and controversy-free, but can testify that anytime you get a cluster of kids together, provocative issues emerge.

Please open the link and read the rest of this common sense, informed commentary. Parents are not fooled by this fear mingering. They know their children’s teachers, and they trust them.

The voters of Jamestown Township in Michigan voted to defund their library because it contained books with a LGBT theme. The library needed to raise $245,000 to keep its doors open for another year. Many donations arrived but the biggest surprise was a $50,000 check from Nora Robert, a fabulously successful romance novelist. She sent a check for $50,000, which put the library over the top in their goal. The library has more books by Roberts than books about gay themes. She has written more than 225 books and sold more than 500 million books.

It could make a great final chapter of a book: A doomed library is saved by the small checks of book lovers, and one huge donation from an internationally known author whose novels are among the most popular on the library’s shelves.

Romance novelist Nora Roberts donated $50,000 Sunday to help keep the doors open at a Michigan library that was defunded in early August in a spat over LGBTQ-themed books.

The famous author’s donation pushed the cumulative total raised by two GoFundMe campaigns over $245,000, the amount the Patmos Library was expected to lose in 2023 because of the loss of taxpayer funding in Jamestown Township, in Ottawa County. The outpouring of donations followed Bridge Michigan’s account of the taxpayer revolt.

In a comment left Sunday on the GoFundMe page which she contributed to, Roberts wrote that she would have donated more, but “50k is the limit GoFundMe allows for donations. If you’re short of your goal, please contact me. I’ll make up the rest.”

Donations made so far by more than 4,000 people from as far away as Australia should be enough to pay utilities and staff salaries at least into 2024..

On Aug. 2, an operating millage to support the township library was defeated 62 percent to 37 percent. That millage — a tax on property owners — provides 84 percent of the Patmos Library’s annual budget. Without the $245,000 that millage provides annually, the library was expected to have to close by the fall of 2023.

A “vote no” campaign was organized by community members upset by LGBTQ-themed graphic novels in the library. One, “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” is the story of the author’s coming of age as nonbinary, and includes illustrations of sex acts. Several other books community members protested against, including “Kiss Number 8” and “Spinning,” are stories of teens in same-sex relationships, but do not include illustrations of sex acts.


I wrote recently about Amanda Jones, the librarian in Louisiana who is fighting back against censorship and harassment in court.

One of our regular readers said she belongs on the honor roll of this blog. He’s right.

Amanda Jones joins the honor roll for her courage and integrity in fighting censorship!

Her GoFundMe page is raising money for her legal defense. Consider helping her fight for free thought!

In Louisiana, a middle school librarian has said. “Enough is enough.” She is standing up and fighting against the vigilantes who have targeted school libraries.

Amanda Jones has filed a lawsuit against two men who have harassed her and other librarians.

Amanda Jones, a librarian at a middle school in Denham Springs, Louisiana, filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday, arguing that Facebook pages run by Michael Lunsford and Ryan Thames falsely labeled her a pedophile who wants to teach 11-year-olds about anal sex.

Jones, the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, was alarmed and outraged by the verbal attacks, which came after she spoke against censorship at a Livingston Parish Library Board of Control meeting. She said she’s suing the two men because she’s exhausted with the insults hurled at educators and librarians over LGBTQ materials.

“I’ve had enough for everybody,” Jones said in an interview. “Nobody stands up to these people. They just say what they want and there are no repercussions and they ruin people’s reputations and there’s no consequences.”

Lunsford did not respond to requests for comment. Thames declined to comment.

Nationwide, school districts have been bombarded by conservative activists and parents over the past year demanding that books with sexual references or that discuss racial conflict, often by authors of color or those who are LGBTQ, be purged from campuses. Those demands have slowly moved toward public libraries in recent months.

Thank you, Amanda Jones!

Ruth Ben-Ghiat writes a post on her blog about threats to democracy. One of this is described in this post: the threats to libraries and librarians by extremists who want to ban books.

This essay is dedicated to librarians and library staff across America, and to a family member who worked as a library clerk in an elementary school for many years.

“It felt like a knife in my heart,” said Audrey Wilson-Youngblood, a Texas library services coordinator, of the flood of accusations from parents that she and other library staff in the Keller Independent School District harmed students by having books on LGBTQ themes in their collections.

Across the country, librarians in school and municipal libraries feel that knife being turned. Activist parents, sometimes working in conjunction with GOP politicians or right-wing groups such as Moms for Liberty, are waging an authoritarian-style assault on libraries and librarians.

When illiberal forces are on the march, the education system and any public institution that encourages independent thinking and pluralism become targets. In Texas and elsewhere, the spread of censorship, and harassment meant to silence library workers –including by labeling them as pedophiles — models the authoritarian culture the right is trying to install in America school by school and town by town.

It’s not surprising that libraries and librarians trigger the enemies of our democracy. Public libraries are places where community members of all backgrounds, political beliefs, and economic situations gather, and where elderly and lonely people can find a sense of companionship. This is why social scientists single out libraries as antidotes to the conditions that harm civic life and ultimately degrade democracy: political polarization, disinformation, economic inequality, and isolation.

School and public libraries also have long provided refuge to people of all ages with difficult home situations, and librarians can become trusted mentors and guides.

My weekly visits as a child to my own town library set me on a path of learning. The library also became a personal anchor for me when I went through a difficult period as a teenager, to the point where I took a job there as a messenger clerk, as did a close friend (who is now a member of the Lucid community).

Shelving and straightening the books, and seeing how they were treated with such care, instilled a lifelong respect for the craft of writing and a commitment to intellectual freedom that sustain me today. As my friend notes, the library was “a safe space to think and dream.”

Of course, thinking and dreaming are activities that run counter to authoritarianism: “Believe, Obey, and Fight” was the Fascist slogan. Books become threatening objects, as centuries of bookburnings by repressive political and religious entities attest.

In the US, myriad state laws and book bans seek to remove the history of White racism, slavery, and Fascist genocides from view, along with writings about LGBTQ identities and experiences. In the Keller, Texas, school system alone, as of March almost three dozen books had been sent for review by a district-formed book committee on the grounds that they are “pornographic” or will create “emotional distress.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, an expert in authoritarian double-speak, calls his version of such censorship “curriculum transparency.” Yet there is nothing transparent about the process by which books are removed. As Carolyn Foote, a retired Texas librarian and co-founder of the advocacy group FReadom Fighters notes, these aggressions are about “breaking that contract of trust” between librarians and the public and degrading professional ethics.

A display protesting book bans and restrictions at a local library. Charles Hickley/CC BY 2.0

The goal is not just to create a hostile work environment for library staff, but also to pressure administrators to submit to corrupt tactics such as banning books on spurious grounds and accepting slanderous speech used against their colleagues.

For right-wing parents and politicians aren’t just going after books. They are also personally attacking library employees as “groomers” who encourage inappropriate behaviors and relationships with children.

Associating LGBTQ individuals and their allies with pedophilia is an established strategy among the global right, including in Viktor Orban’s Hungary. And Vladimir Putin uses fake sex-crime charges to imprison researchers who are writing about things he wants buried.

Ideological fanaticism spurs attempts to dig into librarians’ private lives and harass them so they will resign. In Virginia Beach, GOP state representative Tim Anderson filed a FOIA Act request in May 2022 to learn the identities of librarians at schools that had materials some parents saw as sexually explicit.

It also lies behind attempts to criminalizelibrarians. In Clinton Township, NJ, the police department received a request for criminal charges to be made against librarians whose institutions had books with “obscene” content. And some states are challenging laws that shield teachers, researchers and librarians from prosecution. An Oklahoma law removed exemptions for teachers and librarians “from prosecution for willful violations of state law prohibiting indecent exposure to obscene material or child pornography.”

Unsurprisingly, many librarians have left their jobs. Some have resigned, others have been fired for refusing to remove books from their collections. Wilson-Youngblood, a 19-year veteran of the Keller school district, resigned due to the stress of working in a hostile environment. In small towns such as Vinton, Iowa, the library itself has had to close for lack of staffing.

Vinton’s fate may portend the future, since the number of groups targeted for censorship is bound to expand. In Vinton, right-wing activists not only objected to the presence of LGBTQ staff and LGBTQ-themed books, but displays of books by Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden. For radicalized Republicans, Democrats are not just people with different opinions, but political enemies whose ideas should be banned.

Luckily, the digitization of books makes it hard for total bans on content for children to stick. The Brooklyn Public Library’s Books UnBannedprogram offers a free library card to people aged 13 to 21 across the U.S. so they can check out books digitally.

Yet libraries and librarians urgently need our support. Contacting your town or school administration to express solidarity and approval with current policies is one way you can push back. Another is to step up as a volunteer or even run for office on a town or school board that has oversight on library issues.

What Amanda Litman, executive director and co-founder of Run For Something, said about school boards in our interview is also true of libraries. They play “a foundational role in determining the kinds of citizens that kids ultimately become.” Libraries, and librarians, are essential to a healthy democratic society.