TLA Launches Texans for the Right to Read, Statewide Coalition Opposed to Book Banning
The Texas Library Association (TLA) has launched a grassroots coalition, Texans for the Right to Read, to amplify and unify the voices of librarians, educators, parents, students, authors, and others who oppose widespread, coordinated efforts to apply subjective criteria in order to ban books across the state.
TLA believes that individuals have the right to free inquiry and the equally important right to form their own opinions. Freedom in selecting materials is a necessary safeguard to the freedom to read and must be protected against irresponsible attempts by self-appointed censors to abridge it.
The new coalition aims to inform and organize Texans who oppose efforts to ban books.
“The right to receive an education is something that is foundational to America,” said Daniel Burgard, TLA president. “Possibly the most important skill students learn is how to develop a curious mind and think critically about a broad spectrum of subjects. Removing books based on the subjective opinions of elected officials has no place in our state or our democratic republic.”
In recent months, calls to ban books have increased, with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas state Rep. Matt Krause being the most outspoken in their desire to remove books from libraries under the auspices of protecting children from inappropriate materials. Many of the targeted books are written by or about individuals from marginalized groups. These individuals are being told, essentially, that their experiences are not acceptable, and others need to be protected from them.
Burgard noted that processes already are in place in each Texas school district to settle challenges to books. “Those looking to remove books have found a solution to a problem that simply does not exist. School libraries are places for voluntary inquiry where students aren’t required to read every book available,” Burgard said. “Subjectively banning books that make one person uncomfortable is a disservice to a student’s education and right to intellectual freedom. This one-size-fits-all approach does not work. No one book is right for everyone, but one book can make a significant difference in one life.”
With recent efforts to ban books in Texas, many librarians and educators believe they are being attacked merely for doing their jobs.
At a campaign event in early 2022, Gov. Abbott introduced a “parental bill of rights” that calls for potential prosecution of anyone deemed to be supplying a minor with inappropriate material. With subjective guidelines, this could lead to frivolous prosecutions and do irreparable harm to educators and professional librarians.
“It doesn’t take much to read between the lines and see what is going on here,” said Mary Woodard, TLA president-elect. “Proponents of banning books claim to have children’s best interests at heart, but it is clear that this is about winning votes at the ballot box.”
Woodard emphasized the important role professional librarians play in a student’s life. “This is an all-out attack on librarians and our profession,” Woodard said. “Librarians have master’s degrees and receive ongoing training that qualifies them to develop collections to meet the broad and varied interests and needs of students and communities. The implication by government officials that librarians would intentionally select books that are harmful to students undermines their best efforts and erodes public trust. When librarians are constrained in their ability to choose books, it is students who suffer.”
Learn more about Texans for the Right to Read by visiting RightToReadTexas.com