This Week in Book Challenges

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Here is an update on the latest book challenges for the week of November 29, 2023.

Chicago, IL area faces over 500 book challenges
A local news inquiry to school districts and public libraries showed that the Chicago area saw at least 529 book challenges across 175 public libraries and 289 school districts. Matching the biases of similar challenges, 38% of challenged books discussed sexual orientation or gender identity, while 17% of them touched on race.

Colorado Springs, CO Republicans demand that cops take books
Republican leadership in Colorado Springs, CO have demanded that prosecutors use law enforcement to seize books they have unilaterally deemed “obscene” from school libraries in the area. Colorado Springs is the site of the Club Q queer nightclub shooting in which 5 people were killed and 17 injured.

Corpus Christi, TX city council breaks precedent, replaces qualified library board incumbents with book banners
Needing to fill five seats on the library board, the Corpus Christi city council passed over three qualified incumbents in favor of individuals banging the drum of “age-appropriate material”—generally seen as a dog whistle for targeting diverse books. At least one of the appointees is seen as a proponent of book bans. The move by the council was unprecedented and is being received by many Corpus Christi residents as a sign of councilmembers caving to the movement to ban books.

Dixfield, ME, only school in state to ban Gender Queer, considers broader book-ban resolution
Only one district in Maine, RSU 56 in Dixfield, banned Gender Queer. The same district is considering a new proposal to remove all materials considered “sexually-explicit” from the schools. Similar provisions have disproportionately targeted LGBTQ+ books and even many classics like The Bluest Eye and Slaughterhouse Five. The board member who submitted the proposal has been quoted making transphobic comments about trans athletes and echoes the rhetoric of the so-called “parental rights” groups like Moms for Liberty.

Hanover County, VA girl scout condemns book bans, starts banned book nook
After the Hanover County School Board in Virginia approved a policy to ban books in June, 19 books were removed. Local girl scout Kate isn’t having it. She started the Free to Read Banned Book Nook, hosted by county leaders and businesses, where books can be checked out anonymously by anyone. A new list of 75 books has been released, targeting supposedly “inappropriate” books for removal, including The Handmaid’s Tale, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Freedom Writers Diary. Girl scout Kate says she will expand her book nook in response.

Laramie County School District 1, WY collects comments on book ban policy; strong majority in opposition
According to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s review of public comments on the policy, 77% opposed proposed changes, while only 21% supported them. The changes would turn a relatively standard opt-out policy into a sweeping tier system based on a definition of “sexually explicit” material that would ultimately be up to the district's superintendent. It remains to be seen whether the school board will respect the will of Laramie County residents.

Liberty Lake City, WA City Council Member uses election loophole to ban books, shackle library on his way out of office
Lame duck Liberty Lake City Council Member Phil Foyler introduced an ordinance last week that would give the city council control of the city’s library, including the library’s collection. A similar previous bill was passed in May 2023 and vetoed by the mayor. Essentially, the change allows the city council to initiate a ban directly without waiting for a challenge from a community member. For the month before Foyler leaves office, council members supporting the change have a supermajority to override the mayor’s veto.

Lyon County, NV group attempts to create committee to force content-based bans
A group of apparently coordinated citizens agitated at a school board meeting to create a so-called “Citizens Advisory Committee.” Proponents of the committee complained about LGBTQ+ books and non-enforcement of a 2021 provision banning Critical Race Theory.

Northland Pines, WI “Reconsideration Committee” met 11/28 to consider banning three books; result unknown
The reconsideration committee met at 4 PM to discuss challenges to Fade by Lisa McMann; Scythe by Neal Shusterman; and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. We do not yet know the results of the meeting.

St. Charles, MO library bans sex tips book by porn star — but not until everyone on the wait list has a chance to read it
“Bang Like a Porn Star: Sex Tips from the Pros” was originally purchased by the St Charles, MO library because "it was the only item readily available at the time about sexuality and sexual health for gay men” (in addition to sex tips, the book has sections on sexual health). The book was housed in the library’s adult section, but it was formally challenged and scheduled for removal. It will not be removed, however, until all 20 people on the waitlist have a chance to read it.

St. Cloud, MN library system faced more book challenges last year than in previous two decades
In addition to repeated book challenges to Gender Queer and It’s Perfectly Normal, the library has seen meetings flooded with dozens of protesters against the right to read sporting signs that read (in an apparent non-sequitur) “God’s Children Are Not For Sale.” A proposed new policy would handle book challenges on a quarterly basis.

St. Marys, KA library forced by religious extremists to remove LGBTQ+ books or close
Individuals with ties to an extreme Christian group SSPX took over a library board in St. Marys, KA and forced it to make a choice: remove books with LGBTQ+ content or fail to renew the lease. Creating a list of books by searching for keywords like “gay,” “bisexual,” and “transgender,” public officials demanded the removal of content they didn’t like, despite public outcry having recently prevented them from doing just that.

Wisconsin bills target libraries with extra labor, liability for “obscene” books
Two bills in Wisconsin (SB 597 and SB 598) would force libraries to notify custodial parents within 24 hours whenever someone under the age of 16 makes use of library documents, materials, resources, or services. The current law allows custodial parents of children under 16 to access records upon request. It is an unnecessary burden on already underfunded libraries. The bills join SB 305, which would remove librarians’ and teachers’ protections from prosecution for distributing so-called obscene material.