Secretary of State files legislation to prevent book banning in Illinois libraries

WCIA – March 8, 2023

More libraries in Illinois are being pressured to ban books off their shelves according to the American Library Association. In 2022, the ALA registered 67 book banning attempts in the state, up from 41 in 2021.

Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who serves as the State Librarian, said far-right groups are behind the push of book banning. He says they want books written by or featuring LGBTQ people and people of color off the shelves.

“These efforts have nothing to do with books,” Giannoulias said. “Instead, they are about ideas that certain individuals disagree with and believe no one should think or be allowed to think.”

Giannoulias is proposing legislation alongside Rep. Anne Stava Murray (D-Downers Grove), Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign) and Sen. Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) to prevent more book bans from happening in the state.

“This radical movement to ban books cannot be allowed in the state of Illinois – the state in which Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451 – a book that chronicled the dangers of censorship, book bans and book burning – called home,” Murphy said.

Under the new bill, Illinois libraries would be required to either issue a statement that they will prohibit banning controversial materials and books or show they follow the ALA Library Bill of Rights, which says “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” If they don’t comply, the libraries would not be eligible for state grants.

Library officials support the measure, as they view it helps everyone in the community they serve.

“Not every book is for everyone, and library staff are always ready to help library users find the right book for themselves or their children,” Cynthia Robinson, the executive director of the Illinois Library Association, said. “Parents are encouraged to make decisions for their own families, but not for other families. Banning books takes crucial resources away from those who need them.”

The governor also says he supports the bill.

“Banning books is a devastating attempt to erase our history and the authentic stories of many,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said. “Students across this state deserve to see themselves reflected in the pages of stories that teach and entertain.”

The bill would go into effect on January 1 if signed into law.