Credit: The Times of Northwest Indiana
Illinois has become the first state in the country to enact a law preventing book bans. Governor Pritzker signed a bill on June 12 prohibiting public libraries from removing books due to “partisan or doctrinal disapproval,” and libraries may lose eligibility for state funding if they don not comply. I’d like to address what this means for GPL and for other libraries in Illinois.
The bill states:
“In order to be eligible for state grants, a library or library system shall adopt the American Library Association’s [ALA] Library Bill of Rights that indicates materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval or, in the alternative, develop a written statement prohibiting the practice of banning books or other materials within the library or library system.”
Galesburg Public Library receives around $40,000 annually from the State in addition to occasional grants, like the Public Library Construction Act Grant for $15.3 million that is funding 75% of the construction of our new building. GPL meets the requirements named in the bill and is not at risk of losing state funding. Our Materials Selection Policy, approved by the library board of trustees in 2002, adopts the ALA Library Bill of Rights and outlines criteria for selecting materials for our collection as well as criteria for removing materials from our collection.
The reasons an item may be added to the collection include demand by patrons, local interest, significance to the existing collection, qualifications of the author, timeliness, and price. An item may be removed because it is not being checked out, is obsolete, inaccurate, physically worn or damaged, is a duplicate copy, or other reasons demonstrating that the item no longer adds value to the collection.
The bill was written in response to a record high number of attempts to remove or restrict books from schools, classrooms, and public libraries recorded last year. ALA counted 1,269 demands to censor books and resources in 2022 with 2,571 unique titles being targeted. The majority of challenged books were written by or about people of color and people in the LGBTQIA+ community. GPL has not faced any formal challenges to remove books or other resources from our collection.
Because of our policy recognizing everyone in our community’s freedom to read, we are in compliance with the new bill, which goes into effect on January 1, 2024. To read more about how censorship impacts communities, check out my blog entry from Banned Books Week.
- Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
- Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
- Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
- Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
- A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
- Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.
- All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.