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Freedom to Read: Austin Public Library says it stands against book banning and censorship

Quotes about libraries on display at the central Austin Public Library.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT

The Austin Public Library said it stands with the larger library community against censorship in school and public libraries.

“It’s disheartening when I see it happen across Central Texas and the state as a whole,” Roosevelt Weeks, the director of Austin Public Library, said in response to an increase in calls to remove reading materials in places like Llano County and Leander and Round Rock school districts.

Weeks said the freedom to read is a right and it's important for librarians and library workers to stand together to ensure people are not stopped or deterred from reading what they want.

He said while library staff categorize books by age appropriateness, what children read should be between a child and their parent.

“One parent should not dictate what another parent’s child should read,” Weeks said. “A small group of people shouldn’t dictate what the majority of people may want to read or have an option to read.”

Weeks said library materials are selected by a diverse group of professional library staff who are trained on how to select books for the community. The policy in selecting materials includes “providing alternative perspectives on unpopular or unorthodox [ideas] as well as popular materials.”

The Texas Library Association in October said there was a substantial increase in censorship activity across the state after the Texas Legislature passed laws “restricting education related to history and racism.”

“In order for us to succeed as a society, we must recognize that there is a diversity of people and a diversity of thought,” Weeks said. “That’s why it’s important that we have a diverse collection — so that people have a choice in what they read and get information [about].”

Weeks said no materials have been removed from Austin Public Library shelves, but library patrons can challenge the materials by submitting a form explaining what they find objectionable. The item will then be reviewed by library staff.

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