Llano County residents are suing for books removed from the library system

LLANO COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) – A federal lawsuit is working to prevent future removal of books from Llano County’s library system after county commissioners approved the library’s OverDrive system in December. The case was brought by members of the public.

On Wednesday, the plaintiffs behind the lawsuit banned the Western District of Texas from both “stopping the ongoing removal of books and reinstating books that government officials have already removed,” according to a press release. More than 17,000 digital books were removed from Llano County’s library system, according to the publication.

“Complainants respectfully seek a preliminary injunction to stop defendant’s systematic efforts to ban books from Llano County public libraries,” the injunction reads in part. “Book bans violate fundamental principles of the First Amendment and hit the core of our democracy. Every moment plaintiffs are denied their right to access the banned books, they suffer immediate and irreparable harm.”

The root of the lawsuit goes back to Dec. 13, when Llano County commissioners voted to suspend its OverDrive system, a virtual library service that hosts electronic books.

“This action was taken to provide the county with an opportunity to thoroughly review and better understand the resources provided by OverDrive, the availability of those resources, and to explore what other online services are available,” said Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham to KXAN in a December statement. “Once these options have been evaluated, the Llano County Commissioners’ Court will decide as soon as possible which online service may be provided in the future.”

At the same meeting, Llano County commissioners also established a 13-person library advisory committee, as well as approving a three-day library closure for “inventory and proper cataloging of the books.”

The injunction claims that there has been a “systematic campaign to eradicate books that contain ideas or messages that they [county commissioners] disagree with ”since August last year. Books marked include Tillie Walden’s “Spinning,” Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s “They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group,” and Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent,” according to the publication.

“In doing so, defendants have transformed the county’s public libraries from contemplative spaces where residents can explore the marketplace for ideas to battlefields in defendant’s political and ideological warfare,” the injunction states.

In Texas, concerns about the content of the books have risen to the forefront of conversations at both the state and local levels.

In November, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a letter to the Texas Association of School Boards regarding concerns Texas parents had expressed about books, graphic novels and other material in ISD libraries and school systems.

“The most obvious examples include clearly pornographic images and content that have no place in the Texas public education system. These parents are rightly angry,” Abbott said in part in the letter. “Parents have the right to protect their children from obscene content used in schools that their children attend. They have the right that Texas public schools should not provide or promote pornographic or obscene material to students.”

Abbott’s letter followed a study initiated by Texas Republicans of school district curricula and books used on campus – specifically those dealing with race and sexuality. In a letter Oct. 25 to the Texas Education Agency obtained by the Texas Tribune, the rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, book removals in ISDs around the state and compiled a 16-page list of nearly 850 books that he had concerns about. in terms of their content.

Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham, quoted in the trial, declined to comment because of the active nature of the case.

“Llano County appreciates your inquiry; however, we will not comment on pending lawsuits, ”Justice Coordinator Jennifer Buchanan said in an email to KXAN.

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