By Sharon Almirall
“So many people are coming in from outside to try banning books,” Colorado State Senator Lisa Cutter noted at Colorado Press Women’s Oct. 7 event, “Book banning and information suppression: What the media needs to know.”
“My perspective is these people are trying to suppress information,” Cutter said at the program attended in-person at the Columbine Library in Littleton and on zoom. She was one of three speaking on a panel in recognition of Banned Books Week.
This year, Cutter began working on a study for a bill on information suppression in Colorado she will introduce at the 2024 session. “Our bill is still in process. It’s a long ramp-up until January when the bill can be introduced….We have a huge stakeholder list for this bill including Colorado Press Women,” Cutter said.
She named other states such as California, Illinois, New York and others that have adopted laws to address book banning.
Cutter cited the American Library Association’s website that shows 3,923 bans were requested throughout the United States in the first eight months in 2023. In Colorado, 136 unique book titles were named in requests for consideration to ban.
Alison McCombe, Collection Services Supervisor with the Jefferson County Public Library, said JCPL had not pulled any book due to a request. Jefferson County libraries only consider requests for reconsideration of material from people who live in Jefferson County.
She emphasized JCPL supports freedom of information for all. “The selection of an item in the library’s collection doesn’t imply that JCPL is an endorsement of the viewpoints expressed in books.
“Materials should not be removed due to partisan or doctrinal disapproval,” McCombe added in reference to requests for bans.
McCombe articulated policies from the American Library Association’s library Bill of Rights developed in 1939 and available on ALA’s website. The Freedom to Read, written in 1953, is also available on ALA’s website. For information, go to https://www.ala.org.
McCombe said in noting the many diverse communities in Jefferson County, “We serve the entire Jefferson County community, and everyone is welcome. People should feel the library represents them.”
When Jeffco librarians are asked by patrons why the library has a specific book in its collection, librarians answer that the selection of an item in a collection doesn’t imply endorsement of the viewpoint expressed in the material.
“The decision you make for your own family doesn’t mean others need to consume that book. One seeking a ban cannot make blanket statements. You make decisions for yourself, not for other people,” McCombe said.
For more information about Jefferson County Public Library policies, go to https://jeffcolibrary.org.
McCombe recommended the American Library Association’s website which includes this statement on book-banning from Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, “A book challenge is a demand to remove a book from a library’s collection so that no one else can read it. Overwhelmingly, we’re seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media. Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color.”
Rachael Johnson, attorney with Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, presented an overview of the case in Crested Butte (Brookhart vs. Reaman) in which the editor of the Crested Butte News asked for the name(s) of people who requested books be pulled from the local library. She regretfully told the audience that the News editor had recently lost his case on final appeal.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press provides information and assistance to journalists on First Amendment, Freedom of Information, and other legal issues.
Johnson noted that under Colorado Library Law (CRS 24-90-119) a public library may not disclose patron records or information about library use unless:
- needed for library operations,
- the user consents,
- required through subpoena or court order,
- a custodial parent/guardian has access to a minor’s library card or authorization number.
After their comments, the panelists took questions from audience members. To watch the full panel discussion on YouTube, go to: youtu.be/2rO2EHFF9I8.