RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Residents in central Texas have sued a county’s commissioners and library board after dozens of books were pulled from a public library’s shelves.
Six Llano County residents entered a federal lawsuit against the county on Monday in the Western District of Texas U.S. District Court. Specifically, the lawsuit is filed against the county’s judge, four county commissioners, the county’s library director, and four library board members.
Llano County is a central Texas county just west of Austin with just over 20 thousand residents. The county library system runs three libraries in Buchanan Dam, Kingsland, and Llano.
In their lawsuit, the citizens contest that the library board has been “systematically removing award-winning books from library shelves because they disagree with the ideas within them.” They also charge that the board terminated access to a digital library containing over 17 thousand books because they “could not censor and ban two specific ebooks that they disliked.”
The residents state this violates the First Amendment and goes against the library’s policy that states “in no case should any book be excluded because of race or nationality or the political or religious views of the writer.”
Removed books mentioned in the lawsuit include Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent, They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, and Spinning.
[Libraries] are not places where the people in power can dictate what their citizens are permitted to read about and learn,” says the lawsuit. “When government actors target public library books because they disagree with and intend to suppress the ideas contained within them, it jeopardizes the freedoms of everyone.”
The lawsuit notes that the aforementioned digital catalog was widely used by Llano County residents, particularly those that are elderly and have physical disabilities.
In 2021, according to the lawsuit, the library board and county commissioners began removing books under the guise of saying these books contained “pornographic” material. However, none of the mentioned removed books contain this content and instead conflict with “political and religious views” held by board members, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit points out that many books that board members left in the library do contain nudity that could be construed as “pornographic,” such as Art of Rembrandt, My Teen Has Had Sex, Now What Do I Do?, and A Game of Thrones, among others.
Many books were also moved from the library’s children’s section to the adult section after some defendants described them as “pornographic filth.”
Matt Krause, a legislature in the Texas House of Representatives, outlined 850 books that he said would make children uncomfortable. He sent this list to school districts and asked them to remove these books from their shelves. Books appearing on the Krause list focused on topics of race, sexuality, and abortion, among others.
Following the issuance of this list, the Llano County public library system closed its libraries for three days in December 2021, according to the lawsuit, in an effort to conduct a private review of the collection’s appropriateness.
In March, board members passed a motion barring the public from attending library board meetings, according to a lawsuit.
After being prohibited from settling these matters with the board members, the plaintiffs decided to take this issue to court. They are hoping to get a recognition that these officials violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, relief for any violations that were possibly committed, payment for their court costs, and any other valid relief settlement.
None of the defendants have responded in court to the lawsuit. This case is ongoing.