Illinois first state in nation to outlaw book bans

My Journal Courier – June 13, 2023

Illinois now has the nation's first prohibition against banning books. Gov. J.B. Pritzker was joined by Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, advocates and lawmakers Monday to sign the legislation into law.

House Bill 2789 "protects the freedom of libraries to acquire materials without external limitations," according to supporters. It received minor opposition, with about 20 people signing witness slips against the measure.

According to Chicago-based American Library Association, there were 67 attempts to ban books in Illinois in 2022. The group said it documented 1,477 instances of books being banned nationwide during the first half of the 2022-23 school year, affecting 874 titles.

"Here in Illinois, we don’t hide from the truth, we embrace it,” Pritzker said. “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. 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.”

Stratton said she was proud the state was standing in the gap for literary justice and equity "so that our children and communities can be represented, and have access to reading material that celebrates our diversity and uniqueness."

"Now more than ever, efforts to censor educational and social reading materials are on the rise, and we cannot let extreme views harm ... authors and readers, simply because of who they are or who they love," Stratton said.

HB2789 tasks the Illinois State Librarian and the Illinois State Library with adopting the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, statewide. This bill of rights indicates that reading materials should not be proscribed, removed or restricted because of partisan or personal disapproval. Illinois libraries would only be eligible for state-funded grants if they adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights.

Alternatively, the State Librarian and State Library can work together to develop their own written statement declaring that every library or library system must provide an adequate collection of books and other materials to satisfy the people of Illinois.