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National Library Month: Missouri votes "to defund [public] libraries”

… why do they fear libraries?

Back in the late 1950s, my mother appeared to be on a quest. I kept hearing her call people and request information about something that sounded foreign to a per-teenager: Bookmobiles.

I had never heard the term, but she was part of a community organizing effort to bring books to the community — and eventually to build a library in our small community of just over 1,600 people.

As a family, we had a small library, and we were encouraged to read from the time we were old enough to pick up a book. My father had sets of classic novels that I read through my grade school, high school, and college years.

However, no family can replace a library, but a traveling bookmobile was an effort to help educate everyone in our community.

The effort led to an effort called “Friends of the Library” that helped this.

Today, the Cambria County library system has 14 locales where books can be checked out, and young people and older people can go in and use the computers to find information for school, work, or leisure.

Now, however, libraries are under attack.

The attack

The effort is frightening, a nationwide move by a small minority of people to keep children — and adults — from reading books that they find in their public or school libraries.

To make matters worse, these are people who are using the word “freedom” in their quest.

The simple words could be “dumbing down of America,” but they do not care. In effect, it is one of many efforts since the 1980s to take freedoms away from Americans.

It is similar to efforts in Nazi Germany by Adolf Hitler that is outlined so well in Markus Zusak’s best-selling novel “The Book Thief,” which focuses on a young girl in Germany who is determined to be able to read so much that she is forced to steal books in order to learn that skill and educate herself.

Yet, in America, supposedly “land of the free and home of the brave,” a move toward a similar repression is underway in many states, located primarily in the southern U.S.

The contemporary problem

Last year, more attempts were made to ban books and close libraries than ever in history.


In previous efforts, individual books were on the banned books list, many of which were classics. Now, the attempts are even more egregious, and even states and trying to close libraries,

n 2022 the American Library Association reported a record 1,269 attempts to ban or restrict library materials, nearly doubling from the previous year. But the more telling figure is that, of the 1,269 challenges, 40% involved requests to ban 100 or more books at a time

Unlike book challenges reported by ALA over the past two decades – when one concerned parent inquired about the appropriateness of an individual book their child is reading – an organized effort is underway to remove ideas, fields of learning and the life experiences of marginalized individuals that a vocal minority of people in communities oppose.

A local librarian’s expert advice to a child’s parents is being systematically replaced by a national organization that wants to dictate to every parent what their child can and cannot read.

Kent Oliver, “Why Americans must unite against the organized effort to

ban library books,” American Library Association, April 25, 2023

How extensive is this effort?

When an entire state agrees to defund its library system, you know democracy and freedom is in trouble,

Missouri House Republicans voted to defund all of the state’s public libraries, in a proposed $45.6 billion state budget that will soon move to a vote in the GOP-controlled state Senate.

The Missouri House debated for over eight hours last Tuesday on a budget that is roughly $2 billion less than the one Gov. Mike Parson (R) proposed last January, cutting not only the $4.5 million Parson had slated for libraries, but also costs for diversity initiatives, childcare and pre-kindergarten programs.

Missouri House budget committee leader Rep. Cody Smith (R-Carthage) proposed cutting library aid due to a recent lawsuit filed against the state last February.

The lawsuit — filed by the ACLU of Missouri on behalf of the Missouri Association of School Librarians and the Missouri Library Association — seeks to declare Senate Bill 775 unconstitutional, a bill that has resulted in over 300 books getting banned from school libraries, many of which include LGBTQ characters or racial justice themes.

The state legislature passed SB 775 last August in an effort to expand rights for victims of sexual assault. But state Sen. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonvile) added an amendment banning educators from “providing sexually explicit material” to students, punishable by up to a $2,000 fine or a year in jail.

Smith argued that the state should not “subsidize” the lawsuit with government aid. But the Missouri Library Association, a nonprofit representing Missouri’s librarians, put out a statement stating they are not providing any funding for this lawsuit, as the ACLU is aiding them pro bono.

Kate Ly Johnston, “Missouri house republicans vote to defund

libraries,” WCPT 820 Radio, April 11, 2023

Banned books are often classics

Over the years, I have read many books that are currently banned, although the banning today has more to do with homosexuality than the traditional ones.

Here is a list of some of those:

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Animal Farm


The Catcher in the Rye

Slaughterhouse Five


The Grapes of Wrath

A Farewell to Arms

The Call of the Wild

The Awakening

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Library Guides

Should the bible be banned?

The move has gone even so far as to ban the bible, with people insisting that a book that has references to rape, bestiality, cannibalism, infanticide, adultery, and murder should be banned.

That will not happen in the four states that are leading the close libraries movement: Florida, Missouri, Texas, and Utah.

In reality, parents should work with schools and libraries to have the students read books that are “age appropriate.” That is not banning books, but that can also go too far.

Last night, a student from California whom I am tutoring asked me to read through the first part of a book that I had never heard of in my life. However, I have heard of the author.

The book is entitled “Born a Crime” and it focuses on a young man who was born in South Africa under Apartheid. His name is Trevor Noah, and he was the host of “The Daily Show” in America for a number of years.

However, when we listened to the first part of the book, we realized that what Noah was reading was not what we had in front of us. Instead, it is the “Book for Young Readers.” Was this censored? Yes, but for young people in elementary schools, that was probably appropriate, though some of the censored material seemed lame to me.

Nevertheless, parents have to be aware of what their children are reading. They can censor materials based on age and other factors.

However, forcing others to not read something is un-American, anti-freedom. Having age-appropriate labels is not.

Why are books banned?

Kent Oliver is a retired librarian and a senior fellow with the American Library Association. He explains that most Americans reject the banning of books, but that the function of reading and of education is to challenge young people to read about ideas that they may believe to be challenging,

While recent polling shows large majorities of voters across party lines reject the idea of banning books from school and public libraries, it’s not hard to see why books are being challenged.

Books disrupt the status quo by telling stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told and giving voice to people on the margins who are often silenced.

Every book is not for every reader, but every reader deserves to see themselves on the shelves of a library. That’s where librarians come in …

Contrary to misinformation campaigns of censorship advocates, libraries do not carry illegal information or books – but they do harbor inconvenient truths.

Ideas and books individuals may not agree with are not illegal or a crime to provide .

But some want them to be.

The suppression of our constitutional rights and access to books and information representing diverse viewpoints is in jeopardy.

The freedom to read requires action to protect it.

Together, we must unite against book bans.

Kent Oliver, American Library Association, April 26,2023

My mother, Mike Krumenacker, and Pat Lytle — three of the founding members of the Lilly “Friends of the Library,” would be devastated at what is now occurring in America.

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