Illinois has become the first state to penalize public libraries for removing books under a new law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on June 12.
The law requires public libraries across Illinois to adhere to Chicago-based American Library Association’s (ALA) Bill of Rights in order to remain eligible for state funding.
While the ALA standards require libraries to provide materials presenting “all points of view on current and historical issues” and not to exclude books because of the author’s background or views, the Illinois law specifically focuses on just one tenet, which says that library books “should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”
The stated goal of the law, which takes effect in January 2024, is to encourage libraries to either adopt the ALA standard or develop their own polices that “prohibit the practice of banning specific books or resources.”
“Young people shouldn’t be kept from learning about the realities of our world,” Pritzker said at a bill-signing ceremony at a Chicago library, surrounded by a display of titles that have been pulled from school libraries across the United States at the requests of concerned parents, such as “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “Gender Queer.”
“All Boys Aren’t Blue,” a memoir-manifesto by LGBT activist George M. Johnson, has been removed from school library shelves in at least 15 states because it dedicates an entire chapter to describe in detail the author’s first sexual encounter. “Gender Queer” by cartoonist Maia Kobabe, which frequently appears on the lists of books challenged by concerned parents, graphically depicts the transgender protagonist’s sexual fantasies.