Don't Put Librarians in Jail

A ponytailed, bespectacled librarian in a cheerful striped sweater helps a patron at the counter
Credit: UBC Library Communications Follow, CC BY-NC-ND

by Jennie Rose Halperin

One of the most terrifying developments in the right wing moral panic over books is the shift by lawmakers to make teachers and librarians personally liable for various “offenses against decency.” The majority of states have what’s called an “affirmative defense” for individual educators and librarians, which means that they cannot be charged under obscenity laws. As of last year, though, 17 states were considering bills that would change that. 

Nationally, the (highly subjective) Roth and Miller standards provide a three-pronged test that defines obscene materials as “utterly without redeeming social importance.” State legislatures should not legally be able to rewrite obscenity laws to include anything that mentions the existence of queer people, sex, or gender, but these bills are doing just that. The “obscene materials” in the bills below are written to include books like Gender Queer, a memoir, and A Court of Mist and Fury, a sexy fantasy novel. It is worth noting that neither of these books is in the children’s section of any library in the country, and neither is taught to children as part of any curriculum.

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