On March 9, the Kingsland Branch Library in Llano County, Texas, lost a librarian. Suzette Baker told KXAN that she was fired for not complying with top-down directives to remove books from the library’s shelves. The termination letter sited Baker “for creating a disturbance, insubordination, violation of policies and failure to follow instructions.”
“The books in my library in Kingsland were not taken off the shelves, we did not move them, I told my boss that was censorship,” Baker told KXAN. One of the books that was deemed “inappropriate” and/or “pornographic” was a biography depicting the life of a woman “growing up as a transgendered teenager and obviously this group thought that was too much for their children to read.” Of course, as Baker and others have pointed out, no one is making your kids read anything. More importantly, public libraries are all about the freedom of information.
This is not the first time the Llano County library is in the news. Back in December, the library was closed for three days after a handful of harmful challenges to the library’s catalogue made by concerned racists, homophobes, and transphobes led a conservative judge to order a review of the materials in question. The Texas Library Association’s Wendy Woodland explained the historic push for censorship to the Texas Tribune back in December. “A library may get one or two [book challenges] in two years, or some librarians have never had challenges,” Woodland said. “So this is very rare and very unusual and different from the way challenges have been brought forth in the past.”
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Leila Green Little is incensed by the Kingsland Library’s firing of Becker, telling the local news that something has been rotten in Llano for some time now.
A patron of the library upset about the firing named Leila Green Little told KXAN changes at the county library have happened without transparency, pointing to library advisory board meetings being closed to the public. The library system’s online reading service was also recently changed without notice, she said.
“I have now counted 12 books that I know have been removed from Llano County Library, and I can’t get clarification from the library system on why,” Little told KXAN. “There are very clear rules that should be followed with regards to censorship to books in the public library, those rules were not followed.”
Suzette Baker, however, has become one of the first people to have her right to work taken away because of true governmental censorship. Not unlike our public schools, public libraries are some of the most important institutions for nurturing a healthy, democratic society. I can and will argue that the public library system is the single most important institution in our democracy in that anyone, of any background, of any economic situation, can access any and all information—both analog and digital—for free at their public library. It is no coincidence that the more conservative and fascistic elements our country have tried to crush public libraries for many years.
Texas’ censorship drive was accelerated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s November push to have tons of books banned—especially ones that speak at all about race or have any LGBTQ content. The movement is supported by right-wing and conservative Christian think tanks trying to sanitize our country into something of an ethno-white theocracy; real dark-days kind of thinking. The general lists of books these groups are trying to ban from schools and now libraries are preoccupied with LGBTQ sexuality and the false-flag fear that children are turned gay by literature. Because these groups’ version of Christianity is also a white supremacist one, the banned titles tightly orbit the anti-racism “CRT” (critical race theory) books that conservatives are also trying to get banned.
All of these things come on the heels of challenges not seen since World War II-era Nazi Germany to books and the educational content available to American children. A Tennessee school board’s January banning of the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus, by Art Spiegelman, from its eighth-grade Holocaust curriculum was symbolic of this march toward fascism.
Suzette Baker explained to KXAN the foundational tenets of the freedom of information and the freedom of ideas. “It may not be my book, it may not be your book, but it could be someone else’s book and we have no right to take that book away from them,” she said. Conservative “free speech warriors” and “cancel culture” aficionados like Joe Rogan, Glenn Greenwald, and others have been too busy feeling like Hunter Biden’s laptop is proof that Fox News isn’t bad or something to worry about actual attacks on the freedom of ideas and speech, and how those affect the most important resource we have: our youth.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.