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How book bans threaten democracy

Vox: “A popular saying is that public libraries are the last bastion of true democracy.At the library, patrons aren’t really expected to pay for anything; they can use the library’s free services, from unlimited wifi to job application support; and, of course, the thousands of books libraries hold are available to anyone. But in recent months, Republican state lawmakers and local elected boards in states including Texas and Missouri have threatened to remove library funding as a way to control what materials patrons can and cannot access. In August 2022, Missouri lawmakers passed a law establishing new standards that libraries must meet to secure state funding. The standards banned any material containing “explicit sexual content.” According to the law, children should not be able to access such content at school. A teacher or librarian who made such material available to children could face jail time and or a fine of $2,000. Free expression advocates sounded the alarm, but legislators did not stop there. In February 2023, Republican House lawmakers in the state voted to remove $4.5 million of library funding from the state budget, in what was seen as retaliation to an ACLU lawsuit against SB 775. Though the funding was ultimately restored to the budget in a subsequent state Senate vote, librarians told Vox the threat still created a chilling effect. The funding threats didn’t come out of nowhere. They are an outgrowth of book bans in public schools. When anti-book crusaders are unsuccessful at banning certain materials, lawmakers and board leaders escalate the fight and threaten to remove funding for libraries altogether. In this episode of The Weeds, we dig into threats to defund public libraries and the growing movement to ban books at schools and libraries across the country. Cody Croan, an administrative librarian in Missouri and the legislative committee chair of the Missouri Libraries Association, talks about what he’s seen on the ground. Kasey Meehan, the program director for Freedom to Read at PEN America, tells us what this new level of censorship means for American democracy.”

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