New Texas Law Would Permit Prosecutors To Charge Librarians With Crimes

Only 22 out of 1,650 Texas school districts, or less than 2%, reported formal book problems between July 2021 and June 2022. All school districts currently have established processes in place for challenges and reconsiderations.

Bill 13 gives a council of parents, the majority of whom only have children enrolled, the authority to decide what library goods should be purchased.

What expertise, qualifications, or legal standing could this committee possibly possess to decide which books students in a given school district are allowed to read? The school board must then approve the list of library books before they can be purchased through a protracted, complicated process outlined in the legislation.

The authors of this measure have a poor understanding of school library programs, to start with. There are 116 schools in the Austin ISD.

The school board appointed this Local School Library Advisory Council, which is only required to convene twice a year to make decisions regarding the library collections for all 116 schools. All year long, a single campus librarian makes purchases. It’s not a one-step procedure.

The time it takes to get youngsters their books will be significantly extended by this bill. The additional 30-day waiting period slows down the procedure even more.

I was able to pre-order the following book in a well-liked series as a librarian, adding it to our library the day it was released. Kids will now have to wait months, if not the entire year, for the next book in a well-liked series.

The bill also gives parents the option to enroll in a program whereby the librarian contacts them with the title and author of each book their child has checked out.

There are typically 196 checkouts per day at one primary school in south Austin. How does the librarian manage to operate her library program and send these emails at the same time? Why not, instead, incorporate the library catalog data into the parent portal—the website that parents already use to view their children’s grades?

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The library records of their children can then be found by parents. Even the books that are perpetually overdue, the bane of librarians’ existence, would benefit.

The most alarming and detrimental part of this bill is Section 43.24, which allows anyone to bring a case against a specific librarian for disseminating “harmful content” in violation of Texas law.

For the sake of instruction, it eliminates affirmative defenses. If a “bad” book manages to get through the cracks, does this also eliminate members of the advisory council’s legal protections?

I find it incomprehensible that Texas would let pointless legal actions to be taken against school administrators, principals, teachers, and librarians. With at least 59 districts converting to four-day workweeks, there is already a teacher shortage in our country.

If this law is approved, it will instill a climate of intimidation and fear in our classrooms.

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