Texas librarians face harassment as they navigate book bans

From The Texas Tribune:

Librarian Suzette Baker said she faced a hard choice last year when her boss asked her to hide a book on critical race theory behind the counter.

“OK, I’ll look into it,” Baker recalled telling her boss at the time.

But eventually, Baker — a librarian at the Llano County Public Library’s Kingsland Branch — decided to ignore the request. And she continued to vocally protest other decisions, like the ban on ordering new books. She spoke up, telling her supervisors that the library was facing a censorship attack.

By February, the pressure to keep new or donated books from the shelves increased, she said. After waiting weeks for a local library board to approve the books Baker wanted to add to her library, Baker’s boss would tell her that even donated books could not reach the shelves.

On March 9, Baker was fired for insubordination, creating a disturbance and failure to follow instructions.

“This change is inevitable and you are allowing your personal biases, opinions and preferences to unduly influence your actions and judgment,” her dismissal documents stated.

Baker’s experience represents one of many new conflicts facing Texas librarians as book challenges continue to multiply. Many feel left out of decisions on banning books while also facing increased scrutiny from politicians, parents, and county and school district staff. Some have already quit, and others are considering it.

For those librarians working at schools and at public libraries, the pressure to keep some challenged books off the shelves is growing. And some Texas librarians say the insults and threats through social media and the added pressure from supervisors to remove books are taking a toll on the profession.

“It’s the job I’ve always wanted my entire life,” Baker said. “But then it started getting to be a place where it was hostile.”

. . . .

The Texas Tribune spoke to librarians in two independent school districts that have been at the center of book challenges and bans: Keller, northeast of Fort Worth, and Katy, west of Houston. One from each district spoke to the Tribune, but both asked that their names not be published because they feared harassment.

In Keller, local Facebook group pages and Twitter accounts have included pointed comments about librarians being “heretical” and portrayed them as pedophile “groomers” who order pornographic books. After a particular book challenge failed, one commenter included the phrase “pass the millstones,” a biblical reference to execution by drowning.

“It was heartbreaking for me to see comments from a community that I’ve loved and served for 19 years, directed towards me as a person,” the Keller ISD librarian said.

Several successful Keller ISD board candidates ran this month on campaign promises that they would increase parent involvement in education, including looking harder at school library books.

“I don’t think there’s been a day or an hour in the last 12 months that I haven’t been frightened and immobilized by what the future could look like,” the Keller ISD librarian said.

The Keller ISD librarian said she wants to talk with more parents about the books they want to ban, but so far, only one parent has reached out to her.

“This has been our experience in reality, and we still want to work together,” she said. “Communities have to come together. We can’t keep doing this back and forth.”

Parents and community members have challenged more than 30 books in Keller ISD since October, including the Bible and Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer.” The district has so far removed at least 10 from circulation, and librarians have not been able to order new books since that time, the Keller ISD librarian said.

A librarian In Katy ISD said the wave of book bans has left her less confident about what new books to order for her school library.

She considered ordering a collection of short stories called “Growing Up Trans: In Our Own Words” but worried the book may be targeted for removal.

“Should I play it safe?” she said. “Or should I push the envelope and get a couple and see what happens?”

She worries that librarians will soon be able to fill shelves with only books included on pre-approved lists.

“Are we going to get there?” she said. “Are you just gonna take everything away that I came into this job wanting to do?”

Link to the rest at The Texas Tribune

7 thoughts on “Texas librarians face harassment as they navigate book bans”

  1. “Are we going to get there?” she said. “Are you just gonna take everything away that I came into this job wanting to do?”

    Well, who cares what you wanted when you came into the job? I doubt the new library board does. The citizens don’t. They elected a board that apparently promised more parental involvement.

    However, there is a solution. Run for the library board on a platform promising more books about growing up trans.

  2. There isn’t a clear or widely-applicable answer here. The facile one is invoking Seven Days in May, but that’s much too black and white (pun intended). The darker, and much closer to reality, one is looking at Iran-Contra, and pondering the problems faced by those actually charged with implementing the “scheme.”†

    What makes it even worse is the parallels to HUAC in the 1950s, especially since the actual agenda of some of the parties is so utterly divorced from either the stated agenda or the “proper concern” of that role.

    † Carefully speaking around multiple layers of NDAs. Whatever you think you know about Iran-Contra… it was worse.

  3. FWIW: Once again, I have to wonder about the age of the quoted librarians that expect to be able to ignore explicit orders from their supervisors to promote their personal agendas. In what job is that an acceptable practice?

    • In the entire discussion of schools and teachers, I see more and more focus being put on the rights of the authors, teachers, and librarians to carry out their personal agendas in the course of their employment.

      Authors think they have a right to be heard. Teachers demand a right to tell their charges about their personal relationships and political persuasions. Librarians, like the one cited, are concerned that everything they came into the job wanting to do will be taken away.

      Meanwhile, NEAP scores haven’t moved since 1970, and millions of kids just lost one or two years of educational progress. And the solution from the vocal education employees? Substitute the personal views of teachers, librarians, and authors for the personal views of parents.

      • But it’s only one side (of the many possible sides) that these people (authors/teachers/libraries that write in PW, etc) want to be heard. Imagine, say, a HS football coach praying after the game…

        • Or a player.
          Kneeling to reject tbe society they live in? Fine.
          Kneeling in prayer? No way.
          Same act, different response.

          Some animals are more equal…
          …for now.

          They’re sowing seeds and I doubt anybody will enjoy the end result.

      • It’s like these folks have never had to work for a living or been told “no”, like most 2-year olds. They’re in for a world of grief.

        Protected as kids, told they’re “special”, cocooned in “safe zones”, and throwing tantrums when the world doesn’t bow to their will. Which the world never does, even in good times.
        And the 20’s are not good times, that much is already hardwired.

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/19/sri-lanka-defaults-on-debts-for-first-time

        All that remains to see if they’ll be remembered as tbe whining 20’s or the grow-up 20’s.
        Let’s see how they react to the famines of ’23.

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