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Illinois became the first state in the country to outlaw the practice of banning books Monday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-Ill.) signed a bill into law that withholds state funding for libraries that do not adopt the American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights,” which indicates “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”
Alternatively, libraries can draft their own written policy “prohibiting the practice of banning books or other materials within the library or library system.”
“It is further declared to be the policy of the State to encourage and 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,” the new law states.
The bill signing took place at a children’s library in Chicago Monday. Democratic State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray sponsored the legislation and spoke at the signing.
“While it’s true that kids need guidance, and that some ideas can be objectionable, trying to weaponize local government to force one-size-fits-all standards onto the entire community for reasons of bigotry, or as a substitute for active and involved parenting, is wrong,” Stava-Murray said, according to The Associated Press.
The new law comes as pressure across the country has been mounting for schools and library systems to ban books that contain certain themes that some parents and lawmakers deem inappropriate, especially in conservative states.
Books that have been on ban lists include those with LGBTQ+ characters and those that teach about the United States’ racial history. Recently, a high-profile case of a book ban took place at a school in Florida, where Amanda Gorman’s presidential inauguration poem was placed on a restricted book list.
According to the American Library Association, attempts to ban books reached a 20-year high in 2022, doubling the number of bans in 2021, the AP reported.
Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who reportedly was the driving force to this legislation and who also serves as the state librarian, said the new law gives educators and experts the power to decide what books are in libraries, the AP reported.
“We are not saying that every book should be in every single library,” Giannoulias said. “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.”
The new law is set to go into effect on January 1, 2024.