Illinois Law to Penalize Libraries that Ban Books 

June 13, 2023

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed into law the first state-level legislation in the U.S. to outlaw the banning of books at public libraries.

“Today, Illinois makes history as the first state in our nation to officially end book bans once and for all,” Pritzker (D) tweeted upon signing the bill Monday. “We’re showing everyone what it looks like to stand up for liberty. As simple as that…Because what these book bans in libraries really are about is censorship—marginalizing people, ideas, and facts. I want our children to learn our history, warts and all.”

When the new law goes into effect on January 1, public libraries that restrict or ban materials because of “partisan or doctrinal” disapproval will be ineligible for Illinois state funding.

The legislation contrasts actions taken by conservative governors over the past year, such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis (R), who signed the Florida’s Parental Rights in Education—a.k.a. “Don’t Say Gay”—Law.

The Florida law initially specified children in third grade and younger, but recently the rule has been expanded by the State Board of Education to also cover grades 4 through 12. At least 16 other states have looked to copy its language. 

Though DeSantis has called reports of mass bannings in his state a “hoax,” according to PEN America, 175 books have been banned in Florida this year.

In March the American Library Association (ALA) found that attempts to ban or restrict books reached a record high in 2022—some 1,200 challenges, nearly double that of 2021 and by far the most in 20 years. 

One of the grassroots organizations that’s been pushing book bans, Moms for Liberty, was recently designated an “anti-government extremist group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The group has responded to the designation by saying, “We started Moms for Liberty in 2021 because we served as school board members and we saw parental rights were under attack.”

Meanwhile, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said Illinois’ new legislation “responds to disturbing circumstances of censorship and an environment of suspicion.”

To be eligible for state funds, Illinois public libraries must adopt the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, which holds that “materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation,” or subscribe to a similar pledge.

PHOTO: @GovPritzker

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