Illinois creates first-in-nation law to prevent book bans

Daily Journal — June 13, 2023

The subject of book bans has become a hot topic across the nation and Monday, the state of Illinois was the first in the nation to sign into law legislation that prevents the banning of books.

Initiated by Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias and signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, House Bill 2789 exists “to protect the freedom of speech and support and unite libraries and librarians,” according to a news release from Giannoulias’ office.

This new law sets a nationwide precedent in the fight against book bans, as libraries and librarians face unprecedented censorship of books and resources, including in Illinois. The bill passed the Illinois House in March and the Senate in May.

According to the release, Giannoulias, who also serves as the State Librarian, initiated HB 2789 after extremist groups targeted Illinois libraries, divided communities and harassed librarians, despite that the books are not required reading.

House Bill 2789, sponsored by State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (81st District – Downers Grove) and Sen. Laura Murphy (28th District – Elk Grove Village), allows Giannoulias’ office to authorize grant funding only to libraries that adhere to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights or that issue a statement prohibiting the practice of banning books or resources. The ALA Bill of Rights states that reading materials should not be removed or restricted because of partisan or personal disapproval.

Currently, Illinois law does not contain language related to book banning or eligibility for state grants if a library bans items from its collection. According to the Chicago-based ALA, there were 67 attempts to ban books in Illinois in 2022, increasing from 41 the previous year.

Nationally, the number of attempts to ban books has been increasing. According to the ALA, last year more than 2,500 different books were objected to, compared to 1,858 in 2021 and just 566 in 2019.

In states neighboring Illinois, legislative efforts have been made to remove books from libraries and punish librarians for having the wrong book on a shelf.

“Illinois is taking a different path, working to unite libraries and protect librarians who have come under assault for simply striving to serve the needs of their respective communities,” read the press release.

With Pritzker’s signature, the new law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

“Young people shouldn’t be kept from learning about the realities of our world; I want them to become critical thinkers, exposed to ideas that they disagree with, proud of what our nation has overcome and thoughtful about what comes next,” said Pritzker in his own release.

“Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in the books they read, the art they see, the history they learn. In Illinois, we are showing the nation what it really looks like to stand up for liberty.”