Possible Children's Book Ban in Indiana Draws Concerns
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Indiana lawmakers are still debating a bill that would ban some books in school libraries.
Senate Bill 12 passed the Indiana Senate at the end of February, and is now in a House committee.
It would potentially make teachers, school librarians and even principals legally liable for making books available to kids that some consider "obscene" or "harmful."
At Indianapolis's Central Library - Special Projects Manager Mike Williams predicted that if the bill passes, banning books in public libraries is not far behind.
He pointed out that librarians do not make "random" decisions about books and are capable of determining what is acceptable for public access.
"We rely on critical reviews, awards from critical panels, to determine the best of the best literature that's out there," said Williams. "And we strive very hard to present a diverse group of materials and opinions."
PEN America - a nonprofit that works to support freedom in reading choices - says since last July, 26 states have enacted some form of a book ban.
The Indiana bill creates a complaint process and requires schools to provide parents and guardians with a list of "each book contained within the library."
PEN America asserts that books authored by people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and women who write about racism, sexuality, gender, and history are often intentionally absent from bookshelves.
Williams said he is concerned that politics could deny kids the opportunity to read at least some award-winning literary classics.
"Libraries are becoming increasingly political backgrounds," said Williams, "or battlegrounds, depending on which word you want to choose - and there is too much overreach."
PEN America says in the last nine months, 41% of the book bans in the U.S. have been connected to directives from state officials or elected lawmakers.
Williams said the Central Library - which would not be covered by Senate Bill 12 - has already received requests demanding the removal of some titles.
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