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Red states threaten librarians with prison as blue states work to protect them

Washington Post [read free]: “…library-friendly measures are being outpaced by bills in mostly red states that aim to restrict which books libraries can offer and threaten librarians with prison or thousands in fines for handing out “obscene” or “harmful” titles. At least 27 states are considering 100 such bills this year, three of which have become law, The Post found. That adds to nearly a dozen similar measures enacted over the last three years across 10 states. Lawmakers proposing restrictive bills contend they are necessary because school and public libraries contain graphic sexual material that should not be available to children. Some books’ “sole purpose is sexual gratification,” said West Virginia Del. Brandon Steele (R), who introduced a bill that would allow librarians to be prosecuted for giving obscene titles to minors….But other lawmakers say bills like Steele’s are ideologically driven censorship dressed up as concern for children. They note that, as book challenges spiked to historic highs over the past two years, the majority of objections targeted books by and about LGBTQ people and people of color…“To attack library books, you’re attacking the ability to learn, grow, think,” said Missouri state Rep. Anthony Ealy (D), who introduced a bill this year to prohibit book bans in public libraries. It “has nothing to do with protecting kids.” Chrastka of EveryLibrary said he fears red and blue parts of America are charting different courses for the future of reading. “I see an emerging divide about the right to read, the right to access stories about people like you, the right to be yourself in the library,” he said. “We do have two Americas settling into place.”

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