A Texas county has banned anyone younger than 18 from accessing so-called “explicit” or “objectionable” materials in any of its seven public libraries — including books with LGBTQ content.
Commissioners in Montgomery County, Texas, who are tasked with overseeing county social and public safety services and their budgets, voted to adopt new library policies last month.
Under the new policies, Library Director Rhea Young is required to group books by genre within the children’s section, and label and restrict access to sexually explicit books for minors, reports the local Texas news outlet Community Impact.
“While we may not agree on exactly what types of materials should be in the library, all of us agree that the decisions that we make is what we are trying to do in the best interest, in this case, for our children,” Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said during the 90-minute meeting. “Accessibility to information and where these books should be located is very important.”
The new policies also give the county’s purchasing director, Gilbert Jalomo, the authority to expand the county’s book vendor list to gain access to more books written from conservative viewpoints, with the intent of populating libraries with books that can “balance” out the libraries’ more liberal-leaning book collections — or, some critics say, to indoctrinate children into adopting conservative ideology.
Several county residents supported the board’s actions.
“We’re a conservative county. This is not that hard,” resident Lisa Palmer said of the board’s proposed policy. “We are supposed to protect our kids. This woke agenda is not to make people feel good; this is really an agenda to sexualize our kids at a young age.
“We have laws that say you can’t smoke a cigarette until you are 21 years old because you don’t know the effects it will have on you in the future. But you are going to let these kids be exposed to books?”
Teresa Kennedy, the owner of Village Books store in The Woodlands, spoke in favor of allowing minors to access some LGBTQ-inclusive books. She has set up a section in her store offering books targeted by censorship efforts or book bans.
“Young people deserve to see themselves reflected in the books they read,” Kennedy said. “They deserve to see that there is hope at a time in their lives when they feel there is none.
“Moreover, reading books that feature people in situations that young people have little direct experience within their own lives can foster empathy, tolerance, and connection, which in turn will make them better community members, better leaders, and better elected officials.”
Montgomery County’s libraries haven’t revealed which books will be off-limits to minors. However, many conservative activists argue that any book broaching LGBTQ identity — even through a secondary character — should, at the very least, have parental warnings attached to them, if not banned outright.
LGBTQ-themed books or literary works featuring LGBTQ characters are being especially targeted by conservative activists, who believe that such works “groom” or “indoctrinate” children into identifying as LGBTQ themselves, and therefore need to be banned.
This has led to attacks against librarians in public libraries and schools, who are blamed or accused of having nefarious motives when children access books with content that some parents deem “objectionable.”
For example, in Arkansas, lawmakers passed a bill that would jail librarians, teachers, and booksellers for up to six years if they allow minors to access and read “obscene or “harmful” books or electronic materials. That law has been blocked from being enforced by a federal judge.
According to a report by the free speech organization PEN America, one-third of the 1,586 books challenged or banned in school districts nationwide had LGBTQ themes or characters.
In 2022, the American Library Association reported that 41% of all challenged books were written by LGBTQ authors or contained LGBTQ themes.
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