Illinois first U.S. state to restrict book bans in libraries

“Regimes ban books, not democracies," said Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Rolling Stone — June 13, 2023

As the Nation’s ideological fight reaches book shelves, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation on Monday that would cut off state funding for Illinois public libraries that restrict or ban books.

Pritzker called the bill, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024, the first of its kind. The legislation arrives as conservatives across the nation push to restrict or outright ban texts discussing race and L.G.B.T.Q. issues. Efforts to censor books in schools and public libraries doubled in 2022, and a record number of 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, according to the American Library Association in March.

Last month, a Florida school restricted elementary-aged students on from reading “The Hill We Climb,” the poem written and recited by Amanda Gorman at Joe Biden’s inauguration as president. In April, the Florida Department of of Education announced that they would reject 41 percent of math textbooks submitted by publishers for its K-12 curriculum, claiming that some contained critical race theory (CRT).

“Book bans are about censorship, marginalizing people, marginalizing ideas and facts,” Pritzker, a Democrat, said at the bill-signing event at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center. “Regimes ban books, not democracies.”

The bill aims to “protect the freedom of 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.” Under the new legislation, Illinois public libraries will be only be eligible for state grants if they adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which asserts that “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

“We are not saying that every book should be in every single library,” said Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, the state librarian who spearheded the legislation. “What this law does is it says, let’s trust our experience and education of our librarians to decide what books should be in circulation.”

On Monday, Pritzker tweeted, “I want our children to learn our history, warts and all. Read as much as you can. Read different perspectives. Read challenging ideas,” adding, “And may one of Illinois’ very own pick up a pen to tell their story, so we may find it at our local library right here in our state.