Save the Library: Considering Bans on Books in the US, 2022

“Attempts to politicize the public library are fundamentally undermining the ability for our society to function and must be treated as what they really are: attacks on democracy. The public library, civil society and democracy are intrinsically linked and removing one will erode the rest.”

– Carsyn Fessenden for the Urban Libraries Council, in The Library, Democracy and You

Among socially challenging circumstances that may be facing the media environment today, the politically contentious movement for Book Bans – such as directed towards public schools’ curriculum and school library collections, and now impacting the public library, in some regions in the US – when considered in a context of media influence, the movement as a whole may present us with some interesting challenges for media literacy.

How did this movement begin? Considering the efforts for defunding public libraries, if we can trace any origins of this agenda in recent decades, we could observe the efforts of the Trump administration to remove federal funding from libraries and museums via the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Perhaps the former President may have imagined that we should privatize these public institutions, along with the United States Postal Service.

Whether or not privatization may have been the exact goal of Trump’s assault on federal funding for public cultural resources, perhaps we can only speculate – as now the inheritors of Trump’s political legacy in the US.

Not isolated to public libraries, the movement to ban books in the US may be considered as evidenced primarily in the growing number of instances of book bans in schools.

In the Iowa Law Review, Ryan L. Schroeder provides us with a comprehensive analysis about legal precedents being approached by the courts, when adjudicating about lawsuits over bans on books in schools . Schroeder’s legal analysis, moreover, presents us with a form of criticism about the choices of legal precedent that the courts have used. Theoretically, the movement for book bans in the US should not be able to assume a favoring attitude from the courts. Regardless, it may help to inform the discussion, if we could study how the courts have approached the issue, in any single proceedings.

If there may be any recourse for the public, in the face of these movements for book bans, in broad, we can look towards the leadership of professional institutions such as the American Library Association, the Urban Libraries Council, and in the broader cause of media literacy, NAMLE, the National Association for Media Literacy Education.

If we may wonder about how any organizations pushing for book bans in the US are in themselves constituted, perhaps the existing court cases may provide some form of further information.

Opinions developed in this article are the author’s own and not endorsed by any institution denoted here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *