A US Court Temporarily Blocks a Library and Bookstore Law

From Publishing Perspectives:

This weekend, Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers prepared a message for the association’s membership, writing, “I am very pleased to report that District Court Judge Timothy Brooks has granted preliminary injunctions today in Arkansas on both of AAP’s challenges to Act 372, pending final resolution on the merits.”

Arkansas’ Republican governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had signed the act into law in March, making it in the opinion of many one of the United States’ most severe measures among waves of US book-banning efforts. This law, which was set to go into effect Tuesday (August 1) would, as Pallante describes it, “subject librarians and bookstore owners to criminal prosecution for making content deemed inappropriate (by the state) available to minors, including older minors.”

So repugnant was the thought of criminalizing librarians’ and booksellers’ work that on June 2, the association announced that it was part of a coalition taking Arkansas to court. The association characterizes banning access to various books as a violation of the First Amendment rights of Arkansas’ reading citizens.

You’ll hear this court action referred to as injunctions, plural, and what that refers to is the bench’s temporary blockage of two parts of Act 371. As the AAP describes these two sections, “One component made it a crime for libraries, booksellers, and any brick-and-mortar establishment to display or make available works that might be harmful to minors. This would have required libraries and booksellers to limit all readers to books appropriate for minors or exclude all minor readers from their premises.

“The second provision made it possible for any person in Arkansas to demand the removal of a book the person deemed inappropriate, limiting readers to one person’s opinion about what books should be in the library, and it would have permitted or encouraged review boards to engage in viewpoint- and content-based discrimination.”

. . . .

What has resulted from the court’s Saturday grant is not only a stay against the law going into effect on schedule but also an extensive and what seems to be a deeply felt 49-page document from Judge Brooks.

At a couple of headers, he includes literary quotes, such as Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 lines, “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running
about with lit matches.”

In one of his most compelling passages, Judge Brooks writes:

“For more than a century, librarians have curated the collections of public libraries to serve diverse viewpoints, helped high school students with their term papers, made recommendations to book clubs, tracked down obscure books for those devoted to obscure pastimes, and mesmerized roomfuls of children with animated storytelling. So, the passage of Act 372 prompts a few simple, yet unanswered questions.

“For example: What has happened in Arkansas to cause its communities to lose faith and confidence in their local librarians? What is it that prompted the general assembly’s newfound suspicion? And why has the state found it necessary to target librarians for criminal prosecution?

“To better understand the present moment and why these questions have surfaced, we must first understand the history, purpose, and function of public libraries in America.”

The Arkansas Library Association was part of the coalition of plaintiffs involved in the effort to stop Arkansas’ Act 372, as was the Central Arkansas Library system; the Freedom to Read Foundation; Pearl’s Books; WordsWorth Books; and the now-familiar core four national organizations which include AAP, the American Booksellers Association; the Authors Guild; and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG says the Arkansas law was stupid in that it would almost certainly result in litigation that the state would lose. Although PG tends to be on the conservative side of some issues, he regards the law as a form of virtue signaling by the legislators who voted for it.

Local grassroots actions to engage librarians in discussions about how they handle books likely to offend some large portion of the local community is a much better approach in PG’s extraordinarily insightful opinion. Parents going to the library with their children would be the best approach to making certain the children didn’t cross any parental lines in their reading material.

That said, once children reach a certain age if they want to read a book, they’ll do so regardless of parental wishes or diligent supervision. This has been a pattern of behavior that has existed since the creation of libraries and probably before that in some other form.

Somehow, the world has continued and virtuous adults have continued to appear on a regular basis.

7 thoughts on “A US Court Temporarily Blocks a Library and Bookstore Law”

  1. Of course it was written as a loser on purpose.

    It’s standard practice these days to promote the most extreme “solution” to an issue to ensure it stays unsettled. Politicians and activists love unsettled issues they can use for funds raising and campaigning so now it is better to assume malice rather than incompetence.

    Recent example:
    The recent FTC case vs the Microsoft purchase of Activision was so ill-conceived and poorly litigated that the question that came up in the congressional grilling afterwards by the idiotpoliticians was that Kahn was intentionally choosing loser cases (MS-ABK being just the most recent of FTC court losses) to allow her to argue for changing the basis of antitrust law. An interesting alternative to the more commonly believed theory of ignorance and incompetence:


    Similarly, last year, the case that led to the long delayed overturning of Roe v Wade was brought forth, not by anti-abortion activists, but by unrestricted abortion activists who considered a 15 week limit “oppressive” even though the closest thing to a global standard is 12 weeks.

    Having baited the SCOTUS literalists into acting, the activists got a cause to raise funds nationwide. Which they can now skim as they make lobbying and protesting a well paying full time job, exploiting an issue that is not geting settled for decades, if ever.

    There’s plenty of similar cases, irritants going back decades both camps scream about (immigration, for one) but neither wants settled. After all, if tgey settle thevmatter they won’t have a sopbox to stand on.
    Activism, politicking, and rabble rousing are all profitable careers.

  2. It was a pleasure to burn.
    – Guy Montague

    I strongly suspect that Gov Huckabee (-Sanders, but the fact that she’s the next generation in a political dynasty shouldn’t be overlooked) wouldn’t know that quotation… and if its source was pointed out to her, would refuse to read the book because it has material inappropriate for minors (it encourages, well, reading).

    • Show of hands?

      Who would have known the source of the quote without looking at the attribution?

      I didn’t. And I actually read the book.

  3. The arguments, as usual, are specious. Libraries and bookstores, for many years, had no problem segregating works for adults from works appropriate for minors. The argument that they would have to refuse minors blanket entry to their establishments is completely fraudulent.

    There is also the argument that members of the literary establishment, aka librarians, publishers, and booksellers, are somehow “special” – they can determine what is appropriate, with no question of review by outsiders from the uneducated rabble outside their sacred walls.

    • Their approach is based on the principle that they are an arm of the state and thus by definition beyond question by the citizenry which exists solely to serve the needs of the state. Work, pay taxes, consume, and vote for your betters.
      In China, that is the CCP.
      In Russia, that is “United Russia”, aka, Putin.
      In the US that is officially TBD but the media and Academia have already chosen for the rest of us.

    • Your second paragraph is something that is extraordinarily frustrating about the “service professions”–teachers, nurses, doctors, cops, librarians, etc. Whenever someone dares to ask whether or not their members are fallible and flawed human beings like the rest of us and might need oversight, immediately they wrap themselves in the mantle of their purpose and are outraged at the idea that either A. they might be wrong about how to fulfill their purpose or B. they might be actively attempting to fulfill some purpose other than the one they’re supposed to fulfilling.

  4. What has happened in Arkansas to cause its communities to lose faith and confidence in their local librarians?

    I’d say it is the Woke campaign to eliminate sexual differentiation. That is a derivative of the Marxist idea that division of labor is the major impediment to a just and lasting society.

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