Local legislators sponsor bill to stymie book bans – News-Gazette

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SPRINGFIELD — A bill heading to the Illinois Senate that calls for prohibiting the banning of books in state-funded libraries has garnered support, and detraction, from local legislators.

State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, and state Sen. Paul Faraci, D-Champaign, have co-sponsored House Bill 2789, which would tie libraries’ eligibility for state-funded grants to their commitments to preserve books on their shelves.

Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who doubles as state librarian, has described the bill as a first-of-its-kind policy to fend off an apparent rise in challenges to literature in library collections.

According to the American Library Association, there were more than 1,200 attempts to ban books in school and public libraries in 2022, 67 of them in Illinois.

One prominent case: Parents of Downers Grove high-schoolers protested the inclusion of “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” a graphic novel by Maia Kobabe that profiles the author’s progression from adolescence to adulthood while grappling with gender identity and sexuality.

The book, which contains a handful of explicit illustrations, has become a common target for exclusion in school libraries across the country. Some parents called it a “pornographic sketchbook,” but members of the Community High School District 99 board voted to keep the book in its libraries.

“As a legislator assigned to several education-related committees, this issue is very important to me,” Ammons said shortly after the bill was introduced. “The books these groups are targeting are overwhelmingly those written by or about people of color or LGBTQ individuals. We must fight to allow the public greater access to reading and learning materials, not restricting access by banning books.”

The bill passed the Illinois House on March 22 by a vote of 69-39, with no Republican support.

As written, libraries would have two paths to maintain access to state grants: Establish “a written policy prohibiting the practice of banning books” or co-sign the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights, which says “(m)aterials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

In fiscal 2022, the Secretary of State’s Office awarded 1,631 grants to Illinois libraries totaling about $61 million. School libraries secured 712 of those grants; 877 went to public libraries.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, called the bill “a solution in search of a problem.”

“No one’s trying to ban books for adults; that’s silly. But young kids should not be exposed to sexually explicit content, certainly not without their parents’ permission,” Rose said Monday. “This is an attempt by the left to obfuscate the content of materials kids are being exposed to in schools.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has indicated his support for the bill. If passed, it will take effect Jan. 1, 2024.

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April 11, 2023 at 07:46AM

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