Amid a historic year for challenged books in schools, librarians are speaking out against the harassment they are facing.
Public schools have been a front and center topic in politics this year, and it’s also a growing concern for many parents. A major subject in the heated debate over education is in regards to contentious books in schools. This year, the American Library Association reported that they have seen a historic number of books being challenged. With librarians at the heart of this heated debate, many are now speaking out against the staunch harassment they have been faced with this year.
In Texas, the topic of banning books is a major concern for lawmakers and parents. Recently, The Texas Tribune took the time to sit down with a few librarians in The Lone Star State. Getting their thoughts on the matter of these book bannings, they conveyed how sinister the situation has become. Overall, they feel largely left out of the conversations surrounding challenged books. Some are quitting the profession they love, and others are being fired for not agreeing with the controversial measures.
One librarian from the Keller Independent School District in Texas looked at comments on social media directed at school librarians. She said the experience was “heartbreaking.” Some of the directed comments at school librarians called them “heretical” and against religion. Others depicted them as pedophiles or groomers. They stated that these school educators were promoting pornography to young students. As one book being challenged in the district was ruled to stand, one commentator posted “pass the millstones,” insinuating that the librarians should be executed.
In the Keller School district, schools have been faced with a major uptick in the number of books being challenged by politicians and some parents. Since October, there have been more than 30 books on school shelves that were challenged, including books like the Bible and the contentious transgender novel, Gender Queer –which is now limited in sales and distribution in one state because opposers say it allegedly promotes gender ideologies. Of those being challenged, the board has ruled that 10 of them had grounds to be removed from schools. Likewise, librarians have been halted from ordering in new books.
As politicians grill these books in an effort to win over voters, many experts feel that librarians being targeted are part of a growing misunderstood movement. Ami Uselman, the director of library services for the Round Rock Independent School District said that her librarians are at their whits end. She described one who came to her in tears this year. She feared that her church community would see the comments on social media about her being called a groomer and think less of her. She said another one has already quit. Likewise, she made note that she continuously receives harassing phone calls from all over the country from angry people pressuring her to remove books.
The major issue that these librarians feel is that oftentimes, these angry parents aren’t taking the time to look into the books themselves, and are going by hearsay as to why these books are being challenged. To this, one pointed out that only one concerned parent has reached out personally to the school librarian this year. Another major concern is censorship. As these notions conjure up images of historical points like in Nazi Germany when officials were banning books left and right.
The consensus from most librarians is that they simply wish to get the opportunity to justify their work and some of the books being villanized and why it may be important to keep them on bookshelves. But as more and more politicians promise to fight to ban more books from schools, the debate is likely far from over. Whether or not removing these books from school circulation will have the positive effect on students that many hope for is subjective, but it is surely causing more turmoil in public education.