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Illinois Becomes First State to Pass Bill Aimed at Preventing Book Bans

The Illinois Senate has passed a measure that would help to prevent the practice of banning books, which Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias says is in response to efforts in other states to restrict access to reading materials for political and personal reasons.

The bill is in contrast to states like Florida, Texas, Indiana and Missouri who have passed laws that restricted books based on discussion of race and LGBTQ identities. The ALA found in 2022 more than 1,200 public libraries and schools across the U.S. faced banned book challenges, with objections to more than 2,500 books.

The American Library Association recorded 1,200 challenges to books over the past year. That number doubled the previous year’s total. They also reported that at least 67 attempts to ban books occurred in Illinois, which is up significantly from the previous year, according to a press release.

Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker has stated that he supports the House bill that would withhold state funding from any of the state’s 1,600 public or school libraries that remove books from their shelves. It passed in the Illinois Senate on Wednesday, May 3, and Pritzker is expected to sign the legislation.

“In Illinois, we don’t hide from the truth, we embrace it and lead with it,” the governor said when the bill was first presented. “Banning books is a devastating attempt to erase our history and the authentic stories of many.”

The final version of House Bill 2789 passed the state Senate 39 to 19 after it was approved in March by the House on a 66 to 39 vote.

Once signed by Pritzker, the House Bill will make any municipal library which bans material based on partisan or doctrinal disapproval ineligible to receiving any state-funded grants. Libraries have to show they follow the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights or issue a statement they will prohibit banning controversial library materials.

“We feel we have to protect their bill of rights at this particular point in time because of the attack that has been made on libraries across the nation,” Sen. Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines), the Senate sponsor of the bill, said.

If signed into law, House Bill 2789 would take effect Jan. 1, 2024.


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