SHE LIT: Defunding Libraries Remains a Legal Threat 🏛️

#currentlyreading Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell

Missouri House votes to defund libraries as Senate plans to add money back to budget

News broke last week that Missouri’s state House had passed a budget to stop using taxpayer dollars to fund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at health care facilities and educational institutions. What was buried in the proposed budget was that the 160 library districts in Missouri would lose $4.5 million in funding.

It comes down to a lawsuit filed by the Missouri Association of School Librarians and the Missouri Library Association to declare that the Missouri Revised Statute §573.550 is unconstitutional. The statute says anyone in an official position at a school such as a librarian or teacher distributing “explicit sexual material” to children will be charged with a misdemeanor.

The librarians filed Missouri Association of School Librarians v. Baker in Jackson County Circuit Court against the state’s prosecuting attorneys because they felt they had to take legal action against legislators to protect themselves.

In retaliation, the House Republicans decided to not give public libraries their funding in fear that the money would be spent on the legal costs surrounding the lawsuit. The Missouri ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The American Civil Liberties Union and its offices across the country are working pro bono on litigation focused on banned books. That means the libraries were going to be defunded over a falsehood that funding would go to legal fees.

The chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee in Missouri said the $4.5 million will be added back into the state budget for libraries.

In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned the Texas federal judge who ordered 12 books to be returned to the shelves of the Llano County public libraries. A lawsuit that was filed by a group of residents concerned over the removal still had to play out in court.

It’s usually routine for a judge to make an order like this to ensure fairness during the length of an ongoing lawsuit. But on Thursday, the county commissioners held a special meeting to decide whether to close the county’s library system. The libraries will remain open — for now.

Back in September, I mentioned how Patmos Library in Michigan was defunded by voters who rejected a measure to fund the library over concerns of LGBTQIA+ books that weren’t even on its shelves. The news went viral, and the library was able to push back its closure with $100,000 donated by residents.

Legal actions in the form of lawsuits, bills, and measures can erase money for publicly funded libraries. These actions are being raised over a handful of books, some of these books are marketed toward children while others are for adults. Either way, the personal control of borrowing a book from the library is being undermined by the day.

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What we’re highlighting

Celebrities join forces for #LetAmericaRead campaign

Julia Roberts, Connie Britton, Selma Blair, and Shonda Rhimes are a few of the famous faces coming together to support the #LetAmericaRead campaign in response to the banned books movement. Social media users can snap selfies with their favorite banned books and add the hashtag to their posts to show support.

What we’re reviewing

What We Learn About Brittney Griner in Her First Memoir

Basketball star Brittney Griner will be releasing a new memoir next year about her 10-month detention in a Russian prison. The release of this book will coincide with the 10th anniversary of her first memoir In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court. As the first memoir highlights the moments leading up to her newfound stardom, the second memoir will focus on the transition of becoming an unexpected political prisoner and activist.

“Readers will hear my story and understand why I’m so thankful for the outpouring of support from people across the world,” Brittney said in a press release about the memoir. “By writing this book, I also hope to raise awareness surrounding other Americans wrongfully detained abroad such as Paul Whelan, Evan Gershkovich, Emad Shargi, Airan Berry, Shahab Dalili, Luke Denman, Eyvin Hernandez, Majd Kamalmaz, Jerrel Kenemore, Kai Li, Siamak Namazi, Austin Tice, Mark Swidan and Morad Tahbaz.”

Alfred A. Knopf, a Penguin Random House imprint, is the publisher behind the untitled memoir. The news was announced amid the WNBA draft where University of South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston was the No. 1 pick and more than a week after Brittney’s former Baylor University coach Kim Mulkey won her first championship with the Louisiana State University women’s basketball team.

While Brittney spends 2023 revving up on the court, her memoir will sure make a splash when it comes out in spring 2024 as we get rare insight into her experience as a Black gay female athlete navigating various politics in order to win back her freedom.

Read the entire blog post here

What we’re watching

Tiny Beautiful Things on Hulu from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine takes the best-selling collection by acclaimed Wild memoirist Cheryl Strayed and brings in Kathryn Hahn to play a struggling writer who writes an advice column while her life is falling apart. The book is based on the author’s time writing the “Dear Sugar” advice column for The Rumpus.

What the plans are

The San Antonio Book Festival is on Saturday, April 15, at the city’s Central Library. Sandra Cisneros, Mahogany L. Browne, Melissa de la Cruz, and Rebecca Makkai are expected to be there.

The Get Lit! Festival will be held from Thursday, April 20 to Sunday, April 23, on the campus of Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón will be a festival headliner.

Unbound Book Festival also takes place from April 20-23 in Columbia, Missouri. Ross Gay and Patrick Rosal will be the keynote authors.

Where the opportunities are

Poets & Writers Inc. is looking for a full-time assistant editor based in New York City who can provide editorial support for the Poets & Writers Magazine and its website.

Zibby’s Bookshop in Santa Monica, California, needs a store manager to manage daily operations of the bookstore, including customer service, inventory, and event oversight.

Jump! Inc. in Minneapolis has an opening for a senior editor to develop titles across its children’s nonfiction publishing list, including managing authors and editing manuscripts.

“History is clear: Good ideas are strengthened through contest, as governments are through debate. Since time immemorial, book banning has been the refuge of leaders who fear that their arguments and writs cannot withstand scrutiny. Its violence is born of weakness. And we are not a weak people fighting book bans is an act of patriotism and a show of strength.” Julianna Margulies on joining the #LetAmericaRead campaign

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