Every time I think things can’t get any more ridiculous or absurd, someone or something proves me wrong. I never thought I’d watch my country move backwards so fast as I have since Donald Trump was unleashed to wreak havoc on our democracy. It’s bad enough that judges and politicians with no medical training whatsoever see fit to try to eliminate abortion access, as they also refuse to expand social safety nets and access to affordable healthcare and childcare. Now, we have people contemplating shutting down libraries!
A couple of days ago, I read a horrifying story about a rural county in Texas where people were contemplating shutting down the local library. Why? Because in April 2022, seven residents of Llano County, Texas dared to sue county officials, claiming their First and 14th Amendment rights were violated when 17 books were taken off the shelves because they were deemed “inappropriate”.
Some people in the community and local officials didn’t like the subject matter of the books, so access to them was either restricted, or they were removed from the library altogether. These folks no doubt felt they were “protecting the community” from books about race, gender, or sexuality. Obviously, being exposed to that information would only give people “ideas”, causing them to fall into “sin”. In case you missed my sarcasm, obviously, I believe that’s ludicrous. If that’s really how they feel, they probably ought to consider banning the Bible, too.
Some “thinking people” realized that it wasn’t right for certain conservative groups to decide for everyone else what subject matter was appropriate for their public library system. So they sued, and the judge saw things their way. On March 30, 2023, US District Judge Robert Pitman ordered the Llano County Library System to return the books to the shelves within 24 hours. According to CNN:
Books ordered to return to shelves include “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson, “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen” by Jazz Jennings.
The judge also ordered that the books be listed as available in the library’s catalog. The books are not allowed to be removed for any reason while the case is ongoing. Pitman said, “Although libraries are afforded great discretion for their selection and acquisition decisions, the First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination.”
Fair enough, right? The case went to court, and the judge decided. You’d think that would settle things for now, but no…
Rather than just complying with the judge’s orders, the defendants, who had argued that the books were removed as part of a regular “weeding process”, decided it would be better to just shut down the libraries for everyone.
They were pretty sneaky about it, too. They didn’t come out and say they were shutting the library down out of spite. They raised the idea on a recent agenda without naming a specific reason for closing the library. Instead, they described it as a discussion “regarding the continued employment and/or status of the Llano County Library System employees and the feasibility of the use of the library premises by the public.”
The Llano County commissioners and members of the Library Board have appealed the judge’s ruling. They don’t trust people in their community to decide for themselves what they should read, or what books their children should have access to reading. Interestingly enough, I’m certain the people who are for book banning and censorship would identify themselves as “freedom loving Americans.” And yet, they want to dictate to everyone else what should be available to be read in a taxpayer supported community library.
Fortunately, good sense has prevailed in Llano County, and for now, the library will stay open. Yesterday, the Commissioner’s Court unanimously voted to “shelve” discussion of defunding the library, at least for the time being. According to CNN:
“The library will remain open. We will try this in the courts, not through social media or the news media,” Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham said Thursday.
That is a sensible comment, indeed, although the commissioners vowed to continue to fight the lawsuit demanding the permanent return of the books. They are obviously terrified that by reading about race issues, LGBTQ topics, or other “controversial” subject matter, the innocent youth of Llano County will veer from the straight and narrow path of respectability. What a bunch of embarrassingly ignorant bullshit that is! As if people willingly choose to be completely different from their peers, so they’ll be mocked, persecuted, or even physically assaulted or killed for simply living their lives!
According to CNN:
In the public comment section of the meeting prior to the vote, 15 residents were allowed to give their opinions about closing the library. Eleven of them were in favor of keeping the library open. Another four said they wanted to temporarily close the library until a wide variety of books were removed from the system – substantially more than the 17 books at question in the lawsuit.
Still, Cunningham insists that the books were removed due to a regular “weeding” process, not because of their controversial subject matter. And to that, I say again… BULLSHIT. 😉 I don’t believe that those books– every one of which had controversial subject matter– all just happened to come up for “weeding” at that specific point in time.
Cunningham also stated in the CNN article that the idea of closing the library came up because of the cost of litigation.
“A public library simply cannot function if its librarians, county judge, commissioners and even the volunteers who serve out of the goodness of their heart, can be sued every time a library patron disagrees with a librarian’s weeding decisions,” he said.
Cunningham said the lawsuit has cost the county more than $100,000 and the total library budget is $450,000.
Well then… if county officials want to avoid litigation, they shouldn’t try to weed out books that all have to do with certain “taboo” topics. People sue when they feel like they’ve been treated unfairly. Treat everyone fairly, and with consideration for their rights, and most of the time, you won’t be on the receiving end of a lawsuit. It costs money to sue people, and it takes time. Most people don’t sue others just because it’s “fun”.
Personally, I’m grateful to Americans who aren’t taking the insane extremist actions of political conservatives lying down. Republicans have gone way too far in the era of Trump. Their ideas are not what the majority of Americans want for the country. I see and hear them bandying about the importance of the Constitution (especially the Second Amendment), but they don’t seem to realize that the Constitution is for every American. It’s not just for straight, White, conservative leaning males who have money.
I don’t use libraries much myself these days. I prefer to just buy whatever I want to read. However, there were many times in my life when having access to a library was a Godsend. Libraries should be safe, sacred places for people to expand their minds and access the information they want and need.
No group on either side of the political spectrum should have ANY right to dictate what is, or what is not, appropriate reading material for everyone else. And yes, that goes for the extreme leftists, too, who feel like they need to edit and censor classic books to suit our more “modern thinking”. That’s not cool, either.