Illinois proposes first anti-book ban legislation

Book Riot – March 9, 2023

In his State of the State address last month, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker addressed book bans head on. Now, thanks to Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, House Bill 2789–the Right to Read Bill–has passed through committee and will make its way to the full House for consideration.

HB 2789 would tie state funding of public libraries and public school libraries to policies that explicitly prevent book banning and restricting access to books and other materials. Each library would need to outline their commitment to intellectual freedom. As the bill and its amendment read:

Synopsis As Introduced

Amends the Illinois Library System Act. Provides that it is the policy of the State to encourage the improvement of free public libraries and to encourage cooperation among all types of libraries in promoting the sharing of library resources, including digital resources, and to encourage and protect the freedom of public libraries and library systems to acquire materials without external limitation and to be protected against attempts to ban, remove, or otherwise restrict access to books or other materials. Provides that the State Librarian shall prescribe rules concerning the development of a written policy declaring the inherent authority of the public library or library system to prohibit the practice of banning specific books or resources. Provides that, in order to be eligible for State grants, a public library or library system shall develop a written policy prohibiting the practice of banning books within the public library or library system. Makes other changes.

House Committee Amendment No. 1

Replaces everything after the enacting clause. Reinserts the provisions of the introduced bill with the following changes: changes references to “public library or library system” to “library or library system”; provides that an alternative to the development of a written statement (rather than policy) prohibiting the practice of banning books is to adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights that indicates materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval; and provides that the written statement shall declare that an adequate collection (rather than stock) of books and other materials is needed in a sufficient size and varied in kind and subject matter to satisfy the library needs of the people of the State. Makes conforming changes.

If passed, Illinois will be the first state in the nation to ensure intellectual freedom for all across the state. The bill is enthusiastically supported by the Illinois Library Association, the Association of Illinois School Librarians, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and NAACP-Springfield.

HB 2789 moving to the whole House means that those who live in Illinois should contact their representatives in support of the bill. You can find your House representative, as well as you Senate representatives, here.

For those who don’t live in Illinois, HB 2789 offers an opportunity to present state legislatures language and policy around intellectual freedom. The movement to end book bans will not end until more politicians make it a priority, and given how states like Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma have made book bans, book ratings, and intellectual suppression top priorities, there is no excuse why other states cannot step up and respond.