Update 12/10/2020: In a win for Kids’ Right to Read and free expression, the board of Lincoln Parish Library voted to return all the books to the library’s shelves. NCAC continues to urge the library’s board to review their book challenge policies to ensure that readers’ rights are protected should additional challenges arise.

NCAC’s guide to developing sound rules for addressing book challenges can be found here. 

Original Post 12/9/2020: The National Coalition Against Censorship is urging the board of Lincoln Parish Library in Ruston, Louisiana, to return recently-removed children’s books to library shelves. NCAC is deeply concerned by the removal of books with LGBTQ themes from the children’s section solely because of complaints about their content. The library’s action constitutes clear viewpoint censorship, raises serious constitutional concerns, violates its own regulations and harms members of the community the library serves.

According to media reports, the library removed a selection of books from children’s shelves and restricted access to them after several identically-worded complaints were received. The similarity of the complaints suggests a coordinated effort by an activist group to demand the removal of the books, a common occurrence in recent years as challenges to LGBTQ-themed stories have risen precipitously.

The library’s own policy clearly, and rightfully, prohibits individual objectors from limiting the choices of all readers. The policy states that “while anyone is free to personally reject materials that they may consider offensive, one cannot exercise this right of censorship to restrict the freedom of others,” and that “[o]nly parents and guardians have the right and responsibility to guide and direct the reading, listening, and viewing choices of their own minor children.” (Emphasis added.)

Refusing to allow a “heckler’s veto” is crucial to upholding the First Amendment and all library patrons’ rights to read. According to Nora Pelizzari, NCAC’s Director of Communications, “Parents are free to make choices for their own children, but the Lincoln Parish Library must not allow any parent to determine what books all children are able to access.”

Putting up barriers to reading these books does real harm to LGBTQ youth by stigmatizing the books and those who want to read them. Further, it harms all youth by depriving them of access to stories that introduce them to new ideas, build empathy and encourage respect for differences. 

NCAC is urging the library’s board to return the books to shelves immediately and review their policies to ensure that readers’ rights are protected.

Read NCAC’s joint statement, co-signed by over 40 organizations, on LGBTQ censorship here.

Read the full letter to the library board below. Click here for a full screen view: