By Christopher Campbell
Book banning is the latest edition to the retro revolution that is sweeping through the United States. Various state and local governments throughout the nation have begun to eliminate certain literary materials from school and public libraries. Unfortunately, unlike the re-emergence of psychedelic patterns and lingerie as outerwear, literary censorship is an assault on the intellectual foundations that hold our society together.
In Llano County, TX books were removed from the shelves of the local libraries and the library board voted to exclude the public from its meetings. Another library board in Lafayette, LA granted itself the power to ban books. It is clear to see that the battle for control over the knowledge we consume has already spilled over into public libraries.
“Public libraries seek to represent everyone, are agenda free, and should remain apolitical.” Those are the words of Christina Cornelison, Director of the Madison County Public Library System. In response to the current wave of book bans, Cornelison says, “Some citizens feel like their views are not fairly represented and that other viewpoints are being pushed upon them.” Cornelison continued, “School libraries are one thing because they have children and must act in loco parentis. We, as a public library, do not impose any restrictions or police what content citizens check out.”
Despite Cornelison’s optimism about the safety of public libraries as beacons of intellectual thought absent unnecessary political influence, there is one new piece of legislation that may cause difficulties for libraries around Kentucky.
“While I am not overly concerned, I am surprised by the amount of support it received.” The “it” Cornelison is referring to is SB 167. The bill, recently passed by the KY General Assembly, has introduced some key changes to the way public libraries operate in the state.
This new legislation grants fiscal courts the authority to appoint members of their own choosing to library boards. Before SB 167, the process required a library to submit candidates to the KY Dept of Archives and Libraries for vetting, who would send two candidates to the county’s Judge Executive. Once the Judge Executive selected one individual, the library board one vote to confirm or deny. “I’m not overly concerned with this change,” Cornelison stated. “However, the language is vague and that does worry me.”
Additionally, there is a section in the bill that allows educational institutions to request the use of public library facilities or the use of library funds to build new facilities for the institution. In response to the possibility of running into this issue with a local institution, Cornelison stated, “I would hope that we could compromise or work out an agreement that would benefit both parties and our greater community.” She continued, “Our library has a very high usage rate. I mean, we had over 150,000 visits during the COVID year! We have to be able to provide services to our community.”