Addressing rise in book banning
Challenging what they call a spike in efforts to ban books from school and public libraries, particularly those with LGBTQ+ themes, two Los Angeles County supervisors have proposed that the county library system make its eBooks — including publications banned in other jurisdictions — available all California teens and residents.
The motion by supervisors Lindsey P. Horvath and Janice Hahn cites a recent report from the nonprofit PEN America that found a 28% increase in book bans enacted across the country in the first half of the 2022-23 school year, compared to the previous six months.
“The number of banned books in California is on the rise,” the motion states. “In 2020, the Burbank Unified School District banned inclusion of classics such as’`Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain and ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck from their curriculum,” according to the motion.
“We’ve seen concerted efforts to do the same in other parts of the state, such as the San Ramon Valley Unified School District in the Bay Area and Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District in the Central Valley whose book challenge policy allows for a book’s immediate removal in response to a single parent’s objection. The trend is so alarming that recently Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony
Thurmond issued a letter to school districts statewide cautioning against book bans.”
The motion also noted the recent firing of the Temecula Valley Unified School District superintendent for “including LGBTQ+ civil rights icon Harvey Milk in the school curriculum.” Horvath and Hahn noted in the motion that according to the American Library Association, “almost all of the top 10 books targeted for censorship last year in California schools and libraries included LGBTQ+ themes.”
If approved by the board, the motion would instruct county library officials to report back in 30 days with a plan to make digital county library cards available to all residents and teens in California–with the goal of launching the program during Banned Books Week Oct. 1-7–and identifying a funding source for purchasing eBooks, “including commonly banned books.”
“Now, more than ever, as Pride Month comes to a close, the county of Los Angeles must stand with the banned–the students who are deprived of the literature that reflects the diversity of our great state–and make our eBook resources available to all California teens and residents,” the motion states.