Democratic Nominee for Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias voiced strong opposition to the banning and removal of books from Illinois library shelves, arguing that it threatens our nation’s democratic values and prevents the public from accessing reading materials of their choice.
Right-wing extremists – including the far-right nationalist group, the Proud Boys – have targeted Illinois libraries and have harassed librarians across the country.
“This is an alarming phenomenon that’s occurring throughout the nation, including Illinois,” said Giannoulias, who would serve as the State’s Librarian if elected as Secretary of State on Nov. 8. “This scourge of censorship is having a dangerous and chilling effect on our democracy and a polarizing impact on our communities as political agendas attempt to divide them. These efforts are not about books; they are about ideas that certain individuals disagree with and believe no one should think.”
Book-banning attempts have grown in the U.S. over the past few years, including a more organized effort aimed at works about sexual and racial identity. The American Library Association (ALA) reported that figures of 2022 already are approaching last year’s totals, which was the highest in decades. The ALA noted that most of the books dealt with LGBTQ+ issues and sexuality and books with non-white protagonists were also targets.
New restrictions not only challenge an individual school system or library, but legislation in certain states is aimed at eliminating the availability of books in schools and libraries all together, despite the fact that the books are not required reading for anyone.
In neighboring Missouri, state lawmakers passed a law, which took effect this school year, that empowers prosecutors to arrest, assess fines and even jail school librarians who fail to monitor books in their libraries.
“Librarians are dedicated to their schools and communities and serve out of a love of knowledge, reading and helping people,” Giannoulias added. “It’s absurd to think that some seek to harass them or pass laws to have them jailed. Librarians deserve our thanks and support and a safe environment in which to work.”