Librarians bring employment complaint over book bans in Texas and other states

Texas county is challenging lawsuit against book ban

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Monday 13 November 2023 13:50 GMT
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A group of three librarians who were fired for opposing book ban policies in Texas, Wyoming, and Colorado has filed complaints with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

If victorious, they could set a new precedent challenging the wave of conservative-backed book bans that have spread across the US in recent years.

Suzette Baker was fired from her position as library director of Llano County, Texas, in 2022 for refusing to take down a display of books targeted by previous book bans.

The display, featuring books touching on subjects including racism and the lives of LGBT+ people, included a tongue-in-cheek sign referencing a pastor in Tenessee’s book burning event that read, ‘We put the ‘lit’ in literature’

“I would love to be optimistic,” Ms Baker, told The Associated Press. "I know there are a lot of people in this community who are just absolutely behind the library being open and free and equal for all. And there’s a lot of people who aren’t. So it’s a hard, hard situation.”

The Independent has contacted Llano County’s library system for comment.

The EEOC doesn’t comment on pending or potential filings.

The workplace civil rights watchdog has the power to investigate employers, sue them, or authorise employees to bring lawsuits.

Llano County is also the subject of a separate April 2022 lawsuit from library patrons challenging the removal of 17 library books from a public display, with titles ranging from a teen book on the KKK, to Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, and children’s book from the I Need a New Butt! series.

In March, a federal judge ordered the 17 titles temporarily returned to the shelves while the lawsuit is ongoing.

In June, a federal appeals court heard arguments from the county, which is challenging the lower court decision.

Llano County argues the books are still available within the library system, while the patrons argue that removing them because of their content violates the First Amendment.

There have been at least 1,477 attempts to ban 874 individual book titles within the first half of the 2022-2023 school year, according to PEN America. That’s an almost 30 per cent increase from the previous school year.

The bans disproportionately targeted stories by and about people of colour and LGBT+ people, PEN found, with at least 30 per cent of the impacted titles concerning race and racism, or featuring characters of colour. More than a quarter of challenged titles include LGBTQ+ characters or themes.

In 2022, the American Library Association recorded a record of more than 1,200 attempts to remove books from schools and libraries.

Alex Woodward contributed reporting to this story.

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