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Texas County considers shutting down library

Protestors of the book ban outside of Llano County Court, Kayla Padilla/TPR.

Kayla Padilla, Llano County Library will remain open despite effort to shut it down over book ban, Texas Public Radio, 13 April 2023

After a contentious special meeting on Thursday, Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham announced that the county’s library system will stay open.

“The library will remain open. We will try this in the courts — not through social media or through news media,” Cunningham said.

Commissioners considered whether or not they would shut down their library system rather than complying with a federal judge’s order that they must return 17 banned books to the library shelves.

The banned books, which include themes of LGBTQ+ identity and race, were removed last year without public input, after Llano County officials declared them pornographic and sexually explicit.

Seven parents sued the county last year for removing access to the books. On March 30, Robert Pitman, the federal judge, ordered the 17 books to be returned to the shelves because officials had targeted them for the ideas they contain.

There was a line around the block of concerned residents who testified against the idea of shutting the library system down to circumvent the judge’s order.

Most protestors stood outside for the duration of the meeting because of limited room inside the court. One library advocate, Carolyn Foote, said that the removal of the 17 books is a “slippery slope.”

Foote is co-founder of the FReadom Fighters, a group of Texas librarians fighting book bans and advocating for students.

“That’s why you have rules and policies — because censorship really isn’t a partisan issue. And partly, the Supreme Court supports libraries in that. There’s a ruling called Pico v. Island Trees that says you cannot remove materials just because you don’t like the ideas in them,” she explained.

Foote added that a library provides resources beyond it books, and it helps generations of people, including senior citizens. She pointed out the number of senior citizens protesting outside the building.

“If you look around here, there’s quite a few senior citizens here today protesting. A lot of seniors aren’t necessarily computer savvy. They have all sorts of community events, book clubs, things to help people get out of the house. So, you’re just depriving an entire community,” Foote said.

The federal judge’s order requires the Llano County library system to update its online catalog to reflect the 17 books are available for checkout, and it prohibits officials from removing any more books.

The 17 books are:

  • 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
  • Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
  • Spinning by Tillie Walden
  • In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  • It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health by Robbie H. Harris
  • My Butt is So Noisy! I Broke My Butt! and I Need a New Butt! by Dawn McMillan
  • Larry the Farting LeprechaunGary the Goose and His Gas on the LooseFreddie the Farting Snowman and Harvey the Heart Has Too Many Farts by Jane Bexley
  • Shine by Lauren Myracle
  • Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale by Lauren Myracle
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  • Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

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