AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Wednesday, the Austin Public Library spoke out against the storm of book banning and censorship that’s swept across the state of Texas this year.
Several Texas school districts have enacted reviews of materials available to students in recent months after some complaints. Many of the most-targeted books contain sexual content, LGBTQ+ characters and themes, and discussions around systemic racism.
Earlier this month, Leander ISD in central Texas removed 11 books from classroom libraries (not the school library as a whole) after a review stemming from complaints all the way back in March. Meanwhile, concerns about titles at Lake Travis ISD and several other districts across the state have triggered ongoing reviews to decide whether books should remain in circulation or be dropped.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott even called on Texas public schools to remove “clearly pornographic” material, though no examples of obvious pornographic items being distributed were given or have been reported.
In Llano County, tensions over books seeped over into the county library. Last week, Llano County Library shut down for a review of every children’s book in circulation. The six-librarian panel isn’t the end, either, with County Judge Ron Cunningham saying a library advisory board is in the works to create policies for future reviews.
Now, Austin Public Library is taking its stand alongside the Texas Library Association and the American Library Association, which have already expressed disagreement with the trend.
“Freedom to read is a right that must be protected in our schools and public libraries, and we must not give in to the vocal few that want to speak for the many,” said APL Director Roosevelt Weeks in a Monday statement.
APL, which operates 20 branches, says it remains committed to serving the entire Austin community with access to “books, ideas, and knowledge.”
“Every parent has the right to say, ‘hey, I don’t want my child reading this,’ but that’s a parent decision … but this small group cannot decide on what every child can be able to read. Leave that up to the parents,” Weeks said in an interview with KXAN. “We provide the information, and parents are the authority on what their child can read, so no one individual or group of individuals should dictate what others should be able to read.”
Weeks explained the libraries use a material selection policy run by their highly-trained librarians to vet what goes onto shelves.
At the macro level, a statewide investigation of at least 849 books in Texas school districts is underway, with State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, initiating a Republican-backed inquiry into school content.
Krause’s list of books includes several titles on the Black Lives Matter movement, books written by and for queer people, and books deemed to cover critical race theory, which is not taught in Texas schools.
CRT is an academic framework typically taught in law schools. The teachings — which are not a standard singular program — aims to address injustice in how the legal system has historically treated people of color. Despite little-to-no evidence, CRT has ever been taught inside a Texas classroom (as discussions about race do not immediately equal CRT discussion), the state legislature banned the doctrine from classrooms in May.