Libraries back legislation against book bans

  • Comments left by patrons of Beals Memorial Library on the Wall of Words and Worries. The chalkboard was installed so patrons could answer questions on important topics, in this case, if banning books should be allowed. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • The Banned Books display at Beals Memorial Library in Winchendon. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • In 1990, school districts in California banned the book "Little Red Riding Hood" because one of its illustrations showed the main character carrying a bottle of wine in her basket. PHOTO BY GREG VINE—

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 10/6/2023 4:25:44 PM
Modified: 10/6/2023 4:24:42 PM

ATHOL – As Banned Book Week draws to a close, the issue remains a serious one for librarians, including those in the North Quabbin region.

Lawmakers are taking note as well. On Beacon Hill, state Sen. Jacob Oliveira (D-Ludlow) has sponsored a bill, SD 2679, which would establish a pool of funding solely for libraries that adopt the American Library Association’s bill of rights. The bill requires local libraries to adopt ALA standards in order to receive state funding.

The ALA bill of rights declares, among other things, “Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation; Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval; Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment; Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.”

Athol Public Library Director Jean Shaughnessy expressed strong support for Oliveira’s bill, along with another piece of legislation designed to prevent book banning in public schools. She said the town’s Board of Library Trustees adopted the ALA bill of rights in 2003.

“This is really proactive measure on their part, which is wonderful.” she said. “It feels great that they’ve paid attention and that there’s concern about this issue other than just in library world. The feeling of support is great. I think (these measures) will hopefully keep Massachusetts from having the problems that some of the other states are having.”

Beals Memorial Library Director Manuel King also expressed support for the legislation. King said libraries should provide materials for every point of view. He believes that people have the right to question things, but not ban what other people can see in the library. He said during his time at Beals Memorial, there was only one phone call over an LGBTQ event for adults, which was resolved following a brief conversation.

“But we’ve never had a challenge to a specific book, at least in my tenure,” King said. “But I totally support the ALA and their effort to make sure bans don’t happen at libraries, or that people can’t just step in and try to ban books that other people want to read.”

The other piece of legislation is a bill sponsored by state Sen. Julian Cyr (D), which lays out a process for review of “challenged materials” in school libraries and gives the local School Committee authority to determine the fate of books in school libraries that may be challenged. The bill was drafted in collaboration with the ACLU of Massachusetts, the state Board of Library Commissioners, the Mass. School Library Association and MassEquality.

Athol Royalston Regional School District Superintendent Matthew Ehrenworth said that the district has not encountered any major issues around this topic.

According to PEN America, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Oklahoma, and Kansas are the top five states when it comes to banning books. In Texas, 713 bans have been enacted in 16 school districts, far ahead of Pennsylvania, which was the next-highest with 456 bans enacted in nine districts.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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