On National Right to Read Day, April 24th, the American Library Association released its annual report, including the top 13 books most targeted for censorship.
The titles that were targeted most often are available here. Almost all of them deal with topics either involving LGBTQ characters and/or situations that conservatives label sexually explicit.
In Kenosha County, the Republican Party and Moms for Liberty, the same group that shut down KUSD School Board meetings and ran an extremist candidate for KUSD school board in April, is now targeting our local libraries. You can see video of members of Moms for Liberty and the local Republican Party shutting down a KUSD school board meeting this past February here. Below is a photo of them at the first KUSD school board meeting, which they shut down in August 2021. Holding the sign is Amber Infusino, president of the Kenosha Chapter of Moms for Liberty. Pictured behind her is Eric Meadows, a Moms for Liberty member who was elected to the KUSD school board in 2022 and who is currently suing the school district over an election error. You can read more about that here.
Kenosha County Board Supervisor, Tim Stocker, has been using his elected position to lead the attack on our public libraries. You can hear him speaking out against the libraries and the head librarian at a recent County Board meeting here. He was elected to a seat on the Kenosha County Board in 2022 and was appointed to the County Library Board by County Executive Samantha Kerkman. He has repeated used County Board meetings to speak out about the things he objects to. You can read about his attack against the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read book Homegoing here. Stocker has complained about posters in the library that say Read Banned Books, about displays honoring Trans Day of Visibility, about the public libraries failure to remove the "No Guns Allowed" signs following the Board's passage of a resolution allowing guns into county buildings and parks. As Stocker was aware, the signs were ordered to remain in place by County Executive Kerkman until the county's handbook was updated to reflect the change in gun policy, yet he continues to publicly blame the head librarian for not removing the signs quickly enough for him.
Stocker, Moms for Liberty and the local Republican Party have joined forces in attacking our public libraries:
Among their demands are:
- Cut all ties with the American Library Association. The American Library Association upholds the Right to Read, which is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. You can read more about their position here.
- Cut all ties with the National Endowment for the Arts.
- Stop promoting the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read book Homegoing.
- Stop promoting or celebrating special days with what they consider a "political agenda" or when the library does celebrate Black History Month, Trans Day of Visibility, the library should put up a display representing the "other side."
- Remove all posters and displays they find objectionable.
- Other members of their group have called for the library to set up a "pornography" section to contain any books dealing with sex, gender and sexual content and that librarians not hand any books to children but that they hand them to parents so the parent can hand them to children.
Moms for Liberty members claim they are not banning books. Instead they want to determine what books are considered "age appropriate." Books with sexual content that makes them uncomfortable are labeled "pornography" or "obscene" by members of Moms for Liberty, particularly if they are books that contain LGBTQ content. They frequently use the terms "groomer" and "pedophile" for anyone that disagrees with their position.
The organization has even developed a rating scale they are promoting. Use of such a scale by public libraries violates the Library Bill of Rights. The 1st Amendment protects our right to read. Our libraries belong to all of us and should not be influenced by individuals or groups with a political, ideological or social agenda.
At the Salem Lakes Community Library on April 25th, residents of the County showed up to speak at the library board meeting to speak overwhelmingly in support of keeping the library free from right-wing censorship and to keep it an inclusive environment. You can hear their comments here. You will hear Republican County Board Supervisor John Poole speak about cutting funding for the library toward the end of the video.
What's happening in Kenosha County libraries is not unique.
2022 was another record-breaking year for book challenges in librariesnationwide, with the conservative group Moms for Liberty leading the charge on these bans. Almost all of this year's books targeted for censorship contain LGBTQIA stories or stories that right-wing conservatives consider "sexually explicit."
Nationwide, public libraries are under attack by conservative groups, who's latest tactic is to attempt to defund public libraries. Supervisor Tim Stocker mentioned library funding in his complaints against the library linked above. You can read more about conservative efforts to defund public libraries here.
Today and everyday, we must defend our right to read. Here's steps you can take:
#BannedBooksList #NationalLibraryWeek #loveourlibraries #nobookbans