A law involving public libraries in Illinois that created political divides is set to go into effect in January.
The law will withhold state funding from libraries that remove books because of questionable material or personal disapproval. Public libraries must adopt the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights, which holds that “materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation,” or subscribe to a similar pledge.
“What this law does is it says, let’s trust our experience and education of our librarians to decide what books should be in circulation,” said Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who is the state librarian.
Earlier this year, the ALA announced that attempts to censor books in schools and public libraries reached a 20-year high in 2022.
Despite an assertion by Giannoulias that this “should not be a Democrat or Republican issue,” it has created a gap along party lines with Republicans in opposition.
Shannon Adcock, president of the group Awake Illinois, said local officials should be making the decision about reading materials.
“We have local school boards of elected school board members that are there to take an oath to represent their constituents and to be stewards of their local tax dollars,” said Adcock.
The ACLU Illinois said in a statement that community support is crucial to preserving libraries and free speech.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, Illinois awarded more than 1,400 library grants last fiscal year totaling $62 million.
Nicole Neely, president of the organization Parents Defending Education, testified that some school boards have been hypocritical when it comes to certain racy books that are readily available to school children.
“School boards across the country cut the microphone on parents who read passages from these books stating ‘This is inappropriate, there are children in the room,’ yet those same books are being provided to children in schools,” said Neely.
***Courtesy of the Illinois Radio Network***