Illinois outlaws book bans in public libraries

CNN — June 13, 2023

Illinois became the first state in the nation to prohibit book bans Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced, as states across the country continue to challenge and axe literature from public schools and libraries.

Pritzker signed a bill into law on Monday to prohibit libraries from banning books, saying it’s the only one of its kind in the country.

“Book bans are about censorship, marginalizing people, marginalizing ideas and facts. Regimes banned books, not democracies,” Pritzker, a Democrat, said at a bill signing ceremony at a Chicago library. “We refuse to let a vitriolic strain of White nationalism coursing through our country determine whose histories are told, not in Illinois.”

The measure, which takes effect January 1, says public libraries must adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights or their own statement prohibiting book banning to be eligible for state money.

The association’s Library Bill of Rights states that reading materials “should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval” or “excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.”

The signing comes amid record book challenges, laws and policies to limit books available in public schools and libraries.

In March, the library association said there were 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, marking the highest number of attempted book bans since the association began compiling the data more than 20 years ago.

“A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship,” the association said, noting that of those books, “the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.”

An April report from free speech organization PEN America found book bans rose during the first half of the 2022-2023 school year. Almost a third of the bans were the result of newly enacted state laws, according to the report, which found bans were most prevalent in five states: Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina.

Pritzker and nine other governors sent a letter last month to textbook publishers urging them consider the negative impacts of book banning, according to a copy of the letter shared with CNN.

Last week, President Joe Biden announced he plans to appoint a new federal coordinator to address the increase in book bans.

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who led support for the new state law, on Monday recognized the librarians who advocated for it.

“The concept of banning books contradicts the very essence of what our country stands for. It also defies what education is all about: teaching our children to think for themselves,” Giannoulias said.