The Foundations of the US Public Library Service are Cracking

The Missouri Legislature has voted to defund public libraries, I guess the Show Me State does not like people saying “Show me books with gay, trans and minority characters!” to Librarians. Apparently, Texas is trying to go down a similar route and Florida is an even hotter mess these days. A Michigan Library was also defunded and faces potential closure, even after thousands of dollars in donations were raised.

Moms for Liberty has also been incredibly active, as freedom of choice in reading material is not covered under their version of Liberty, they are now targeting a school in the district that my library serves, the librarian there resigned earlier this year and are active across the US.

Library boards are threatening closure when their attempts to remove books are declared unconstitutional rather than put them back on the shelves. Yesterday I saw a tweet from author Maggie Tokuda-Hall about being approached to license her book Love in the Library for their AANHPI narratives collection which would usually be a cause for celebration, except that they wanted to remove a word before the deal could go ahead.

Maggie has written about it on her blog – it is equal parts heart-breaking and infuriating, you can read it here:
Scholastic is one of the big dogs in the publishing world, they run book fairs in schools, in the UK they are the official book supplier for the Yoto Carnegie Book Awards, they are everywhere and usually do good work; so, I find it hard to believe that this move is a one-off, how many authors and illustrators have already decided to swallow a bitter pill to accept what appears to be a fantastic deal?

As the clamor to ban books in schools and libraries (and also alarmingly now in bookstores) has started growing louder how many publishers have begun moving behind the scenes to head off criticism instead of supporting their authors and illustrators and the readers who deserve access to books?

Diverse voices in the publishing world (& in libraries) are an incredibly small percentage, of the workforce and also what tis available in print. Hearing about this brazen move by Scholastic I fear that the numbers may become even smaller if publishers are moving to placate the outsize voices of those that are complaining or taking offence at diverse offerings in libraries. Library workers not purchasing works to avoid complaints is a creeping problem in libraries but if publishers are pre-emptively censoring works that they have or wish to make available then the whole edifice made up of publishers, bookstores and libraries becomes unsafe and unwelcoming for everyone.

As a public service Public Libraries are non-partisan and open to all (or they should be), but this new hostile environment being created by a minority of people that use libraries risks skewing the services and materials that libraries offer.

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