New Illinois law will penalize libraries that ban books

The Week — June 13, 2023

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a bill into law that would penalize public schools and libraries for banning books, a move that he said makes the state the first in the nation to pass such a law, CNN reported.

"Book bans are about censorship, marginalizing people, marginalizing ideas and facts. Regimes ban books, not democracies," Pritzker said before signing the bill in a Chicago library.

Once the new law goes into effect on Jan. 1, public libraries must adopt the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights or a similar statement to be eligible for state funding. The ALA's Bill of Rights holds 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."

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who led the push for the legislation, applauded the librarians who advocated for the bill on Monday, per CNN. "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.

The measure comes as other states across the country pass laws empowering a record number of book bans. In March, the ALA said that the 1,269 petitions to censor library books in 2022 marked the highest number of attempted book bans in the association's 20-year history. Most of the affected books were primarily written by or about people of color or the LGBTQ+ community.

While Illinois may be the first state to pass a law prohibiting book bans, it may not be the only one for long. A group of Democratic senators from New Jersey proposed a similar bill to defund any public library or school that bans or restricts books. President Biden also recently announced plans to appoint a federal coordinator to address the rise in book bans.