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Illinois Is Now Going To Be The First State To Ban The Banning Of Books

Illinois’ Secretary of State calls first-of-its-kind bill ‘a triumph for our democracy, a win for First Amendment rights, and most importantly, a great victory for future generations to come’

Introduced by Illinois’ Secretary of State, Alexi Giannoulias, the bill stipulates that libraries must adopt an anti-book banning policy in order to receive state funding.

The legislation has passed both the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2024, if Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the bill as expected.

More than 1,600 grants were awarded to Illinois libraries in the last fiscal year with the total funds exceeding US$62 million.

The bill would require state libraries to adhere to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights — which maintains that library materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation, or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval — to remain eligible for funding.

Libraries may also develop their own written statement “prohibiting the practice of banning books or other materials within the library or library system,” if they choose not to adopt the ALA Library Bill of Rights.

“This landmark legislation is a triumph for our democracy, a win for First Amendment rights, and most importantly, a great victory for future generations to come,” Giannoulias said in a news conference earlier this month.

Giannoulias said the bill was motivated by 67 book ban attempts in Illinois in 2022, up from 41 in 2021, a trend that seems to be in line with other U.S. states. According to PEN America, Florida and Texas lead the U.S. in book bans, while other states, such as Indiana and Missouri, have recently introduced laws that make it easier to remove books from libraries.

In March, the ALA reported that book bans and restrictions at school and public libraries hit a record high in 2022.

“This is an alarming phenomenon that’s occurring throughout the nation, including Illinois, which is designed to polarize and disrupt our communities,” Giannoulias said in a statement earlier this year, announcing the bill. “This scourge of censorship has a chilling effect on our democracy. These efforts have nothing to do with books. Instead, they are about ideas that certain individuals disagree with and believe no one should think, or be allowed to think.”
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