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Minnesota bans book bans

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Minnesota has banned book bans.

On May 17, Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed legislation that stops libraries in the state from removing books “based solely on the viewpoint, content, message, idea, or opinion conveyed.”

To that end, House Bill HF3782 mandates library collections be managed by “a licensed library media specialist, an individual with a master’s degree in library sciences or library and information sciences, or a professional librarian or person with extensive library collection management experience” — and not by “political” bodies like local elected school boards.

“Censorship has no place in our libraries,” Walz posted to X. “As a former teacher, I’m clear: We need to remember our history, not erase it.”

Ideology is out, inclusion is in.

Minnesota and 41 other states have experienced an epic rise in book bans in recent years, coinciding with the culture wars, Donald Trump’s MAGA movement, and the proliferation of far-right conservative online activist groups like Moms for Liberty and rabid anti-LGBTQ+ internet scolds including Chaya Raichik and Candace Owens.

PEN America cites 4,349 book bans in the first half of the 2023-2024 school year — the majority targeting books with LGBTQ+ content — a number shattering previous records.

The free speech advocacy group says approximately 86% of all book bans in the U.S. have occurred in school districts with a local chapter of anti-LGBTQ+ groups including Moms for Liberty, Citizens Defending Freedom (CDF), and Parents’ Rights in Education.

While debating the aforementioned Minnesota bill, Education Commissioner Willie Jett told lawmakers the Walz administration was “eager to engage in discussions regarding the recognition of invaluable contributions made by our professional librarians and the preservation of Minnesota’s public libraries as vital sources of information freely accessible to all.”   

Shana Morse, the department’s assistant director of government relations, explained the bill would prohibit the governing body of a public library, including school libraries, “from banning, removing or restricting access to an otherwise age-appropriate book based upon its content or other subjective objections.”

Questioning Morse, Republican Rep. Peggy Bennett said decisions about books and their content should be left to local school boards and not state government.

“Locally elected school boards, they are not political units. They are locally elected to run their school districts. That’s what they’re there for. That’s local control,” she said. “This state control does not belong in this situation.”

Morse replied the state’s goal is open access to information for all Minnesotans.

“It would be the qualified librarians who have training and who are responsible and obligated to look at the community’s needs,” she said. “That rests in the hands of the professionals who have been trained to do that evaluation.”

While the new law addresses the question of school boards and other “political” bodies banning books based on ideology, parents or guardians in Minnesota may still request a content challenge to library books.

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