Industry & Advocacy News
April 29, 2022
The Authors Guild strongly supports the lawsuit brought by seven brave plaintiffs of Llano County, Texas, against county commissioners, county library board members, and a county judge of Llano County. The suit alleges that the ten defendants, who have oversight of the Llano County Public Library System, have violated county residents’ First Amendment rights by removing access to thousands of print and electronic copies of books.
The Authors Guild condemns censorship in all its forms as it undermines democracy, stifles creativity and innovation, and hurts writers’ ability to make a living. Banning or removing books from public schools and libraries, whether the calls to do so come from the left or the right, violates authors’ rights to express and share what they think, believe, know, or imagine in written form as well as readers’ rights to read or hear them.
“While the defendants claim they removed books from Llano public libraries because they were ‘pornographic filth,’ those books include literary treasures and highly acclaimed books, such as Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, Robie Harris’s It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up and Sexual Health, Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, Tillie Walden’s Spinning, Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of our Discontent, or Ta Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, none of which in any way meet the legal definition of obscenity under Miller v. California,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild and a noted attorney. “Moreover, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Pico says that library officials cannot ban a book simply because they do not agree with the viewpoint expressed.”
The suit, filed earlier this week in the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, charges that the defendants removed numerous books from both the children and adult sections of the Llano County libraries because they disagreed with the point of view these books discussed. The plaintiffs argue that this was in violation of their right to access and read such books under free speech rules. The plaintiffs further allege that upon learning that two of the physical books were also available digitally on OverDrive, the e-reader used by most public libraries in the United States, the defendants shut down access to OverDrive for all users, including the elderly and disabled who rely on online access to read library books. This was done despite the simpler and more reasonable option of utilizing parental control options that were already available for the two books in question. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants have denied all Llano County library patrons from accessing more than 17,000 books in OverDrive’s collection.
The plaintiffs further allege that they have been denied due process under the Fourteenth Amendment because Llano County residents, including the plaintiffs, were given no notice or opportunity to be heard before the books were removed from the libraries. Moreover, after decades of public meetings of the library board, the board changed its policy to make these meetings no longer open to the public, violating both the Texas Open Meetings Act and the Texas Public Information Act.
“The current wave of book-banning has culminated in something so extreme that all Americans who value free access to books should be alarmed,” said Douglas Preston, president of the Authors Guild. “The banning of books in public schools, denying students access to stories that reflect their own struggles and experiences, was dire enough, but banning books from a public library? And doing it in such a way that it denies everyone, including the elderly and disabled, access to 17,000 books? This is true hysteria. I note the recent news reports pointing out that some of those involved in this outbreak of book-banning don’t even have library cards. The Authors Guild supports the readers of Llano County, adults and children alike, in their fight against these modern-day Savonarolas and their bonfire of the vanities.”
Learn more about the Authors Guild’s multiple efforts to stop censorship.