At its November Library Advisory Board Meeting, the Victoria (TX) Public Library received complaints regarding 21 books in the library’s collection. Citizens who filed these challenges wanted the books either re-evaluated or removed from the library’s collection. The library convened a special meeting on December 15th to make decisions regarding these books. Before we get into detail about the meeting itself, let’s take a look at the challenged books and our current climate of increased censorship.
The following books at the Victoria Public Library have been challenged in citizen complaints:
- Neither by Airlie Anderson
- Worm Loves Worm by JJ Austrian
- Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah Brannen
- Jo: An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort Of) by Kathleen Gros
- The Rainbow Flag: Bright, Bold, and Beautiful by Michelle Millar Fisher
- The Only Black Girl in Town by Brandy Colbert
- Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
- The Moon Within by Aida Salazar
- Jack not Jackie by Erica Silverman
- The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
- Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
- Teens & LGBT Issues by Christine Wilcox
- Jacob’s Room to Choose by Ian Hoffman + Sarah Hoffman
- Queer (The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens) by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschké
- My Family: My Two Moms by Claudia Harrington
- My Family: My Two Dads by Claudia Harrington
- The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead
- In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby
- Rick by Alex Gino
- Sex us a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth
- If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
When going through these complaints, a couple things jumped out at me. First, the list trends overwhelmingly towards LGBTQ+ topics in both children’s and YA books. Second, the suggested replacements on the complaint forms overwhelmingly had a religious bent. Further, in a couple cases, complainants neglected to include subtitles for suggested replacements. For example, A Change of Affection: A Gay Man’s Incredible Story of Redemption, was simply listed as a A Change of Affection. Additionally, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, was listed only as When Harry Became Sally. There may be no larger intentions behind these omissions, but it is worth noting.
Schools in Texas have additional pressure coming from state leadership. Texas Governor Greg Abbott called on the state board of education and the Texas Education Agency to create standards for what books can go into school libraries as well as to pull books deemed “overtly sexual.” Abbott’s initiative led to state representative Matt Krause creating a list targeting 850 books. Unsurprisingly, these books predominantly address either racial or LGBTQIA+ topics.
In reaction, the North East Independent School District in Texas pulled 414 books from its shelves for review. Supposedly, many of these titles will be available again following their review, but the school district did not stop there. They are implementing a set of electronic tools to allow parents to see which books their children have checked out. This school district was not the first to implement such a policy. The Collier County School District in Florida implemented this practice all the way back in 2015.
Getting back to the Victoria (TX) banning attempts, let’s examine the timeline of events. This past summer, members of the Victoria community submitted 43 separate citizen complaint forms. The complainants asked for either the removal or relocation of materials they deemed inappropriate. They were undeterred when their requests were denied, as 12 community members submitted further complaints about the aforementioned list of 21 books. A public hearing was held in November, but a ruling did not come down until the Library Advisory Board meeting on December 15th. As a result of that meeting, the board voted to approve the library director’s recommendation to keep all 21 of the contested books.
While this is a win. It is also part of a deeply concerning movement affecting libraries across the United States. Of course libraries are deeply affected, but it is also members of already marginalized communities feeling the strain as their identities come under question. Victoria resident Nat Clark had this to say: “I am just a person who loves humans. Why can’t I see that in a children’s book? Why couldn’t I see that when I was younger? Why wasn’t that there? Because people didn’t want it to be there.” They are making an important point here. When diverse books are contested and demonized, it signals to people that they are not welcome. When people cannot see themselves in the collection, we are saying that libraries are not for them.
- Victoria Advocate, December 21, 2021 “Victoria Public Library Board Votes to Keep All Twenty-One Contested Books” https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/premium/victoria-public-library-board-votes-to-keep-all-21-contested-books/article_14699d98-5e0f-11ec-a2f9-a343ab897758.html.