Conservatives Push Library Censorship Agenda Over Holiday Weekend

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Rather than spending a quiet holiday weekend with friends and family, pro-censorship conservatives in St. Tammany Parish succeeded in pushing the St. Tammany Parish Library Control Board to hold a special meeting on Jan 3, at 6:30pm at the Madisonville branch. On the agenda for the meeting are two items related to furthering censorship at the library.

Local conservative activists have been working to ban LGBTQ+ material from the library since July, after the library put up a display in honor of Pride Month. The movement has gained support from Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Jeff Landry, who has suggested that children are being exposed to “extremely graphic sexual content” in public libraries. He has hinted that there needs to be legislation limiting “sexual” material in public libraries across Louisiana.

The St. Tammany Library Alliance has been fighting back against the censorship, joined by the ACLU of Louisiana, Louisiana Trans Advocates, and other groups across the state.

“Book acquisition, that’s the librarian’s job,” said Mel Manuel, a spokesperson for the Alliance. “A librarian has to have a master’s degree in library science. So I think, yeah, why wouldn’t I trust that? That’s exactly what they’re trained to do. That’s like asking, do you trust your doctor to prescribe medicine?”

The Alliance has created a petition for those who are against censorship to sign, which you can find here.

“Banning books from public libraries is a slippery slope to government censorship and a violation of our first amendment rights,” the petition states. “We hold our library Director, board and library staff in high regard and trust them to do their jobs. We are united against book bans and we ask that our Parish President and Council pledge to act to protect the rights of members of our community to access a variety of books, magazines, and other media through our public libraries.”

Government censorship of libraries is exactly what Jeff Landry seems to be pushing for. Earlier this month, he created an online tip line where people could report books found in their local libraries they believed to be “inappropriate.” The move alarmed library staff across Louisiana, as well as national library advocacy groups.

“I am both dismayed and puzzled,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. “Libraries have long had policies on books that allow any library user to raise a concern about a book. Every book has its reader. Public libraries serve a wide range of information needs for everyone in the community. There are going to be books that people disagree with or don’t think are suitable for their kids. But they’re in there because they serve the information needs of someone in the community.”

St. Tammany Parish isn’t the only parish in Louisiana facing an increased push for library censorship. Book bans in Rapides Parish are also continuing to move forward, with the Rapides Parish Library Control Board meeting on Jan. 17. As with St. Tammany, local organizers in Rapides Parish have created a petition for those opposed to book bans to sign, and they have created a Facebook group for anyone who wishes to get involved in the fight against censorship.

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