Banned Books Week Statement- MLA-IFC- September 19, 2022

In honor of Banned Books Week (Sept 18-24), the Missouri Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee would like to clearly state our position on SB 775 and related actions by legislators, administrators and school board members. On behalf of our members and readers across the state, please join us in resisting attempts to undermine intellectual freedom.

Banned Books Week Statement- MLA-IFC- September 19, 2022

Librarians are no shrinking violets, don’t let our cardigans and thick-rimmed glasses fool you. None of us want to be arrested for doing our jobs, but we will not sacrifice our ethical and moral principles simply because we are threatened. SB 775 confronts librarians with a fine and up to a year in prison for the “crime” of helping a young person find the next volume of their favorite graphic novel. Libraries are not here to protect arbitrary “innocence” or “purity” standards, we are here to protect the freedom and richness of our readers’ intellectual lives. We are here to provide them with access to the world of ideas, and to nurture their development as citizens of the world. This means encouraging inquiry and trusting readers to choose their books.

Librarians hold true to our convictions in the face of injustice done to the rights of readers by SB 775. The members of the Missouri legislature who made the change to MO-Revised Statute 573.550 are engaging in a cynical act of cowardice; the governor became complicit when he signed this bill into law. These politicians would shrink the world to improve their chances to win reelection, and in doing so, shortchange and disenfranchise countless readers in our state. Librarians are public servants who work to support access, literacy, and democracy; all of which are foundational principles that support public institutions. We as librarians ask why Missouri’s legislature seems intent on producing bills that curtail the freedom of the general public, that undermine voting rights, that intimidate long-time public servants in an effort to curtail intellectual freedom. We question what gives them the impression that voters want fewer rights? We wonder if the true wellbeing of their voters even enters into their decision making at all.

Libraries and schools are under constant scrutiny, and are consistently underfunded in our state. While we act in good faith to support the public good, legislators seem to spend their time working to undo any progress we make, scheming and acting in bad faith to undermine that public good in the name of political expediency. This seems, from our careful observation, to be the political strategy of those who oppose intellectual freedom: Undermine public education, limit access to diverse viewpoints through libraries and curricula, and encourage the most negative elements of public sentiment toward ignorance and bigotry. Librarians oppose this strategy. It is antithetical to everything we believe and practice in our work and lives.

We stand against oppressive legislative efforts to undermine the public good, and we stand with our readers.

Joe Kohlburn, 2022 Chair
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Tiffany Mautino, Past Chair
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Colleen Norman, 2023 Chair
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Casey Phillips, Social Media and Communications
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association