(The Center Square) – As Gov. J.B. Pritzker continues to discourage libraries from removing controversial books from their shelves, a grassroots organization says the state of Illinois should turn its attention elsewhere.
On Jan.1, Illinois will become the first state in the country that would cut off state taxpayer funding to any libraries that remove books currently on the shelves. Under the new law, Illinois public libraries can only access state grants if they adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which stipulates that “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”
On Tuesday, Pritzker attended an event at the University of Chicago to commemorate National Banned Books Week. The school plans to build a collection of books that have been historically banned, creating an accessible library open to the public.
“Tyrants and fascists rise up and authoritarian regimes take hold, and what’s the first thing that they do? They ban the books that disagree with them,” Pritzker said.
Shannon Adcock, president of the advocacy group Awake Illinois, says it is another example of state government overstepping its bounds.
“We have local library boards and trustees, we have local school boards of elected school board members that are there to take an oath to represent their constituents and to be stewards of their local tax dollars,” Adcock told The Center Square.
Some advocates for restrictions on books in schools and libraries say some materials are sexually explicit. Missouri and several other states have enacted laws that allow school administrations to restrict books that they deem inappropriate for young readers.
Adcock said more attention should be directed toward reading efficiency in Illinois schools.
“It’s at 29.9% right now, down from 37.4% in 2019,” Adcock said of reading literacy rates in the state. “We wish they were as focused on improving literacy as they are focused on trying to get pornographic material accessible to minors.”