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Book ban battle threatens Texas library system’s fate

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(LLANO COUNTY, Texas) — A Texas county’s library system is being threatened amid an ongoing battle over banned books.

On Thursday, the Llano County Commissioners Court will discuss whether to “continue or cease operations” of the library system after previously removed books discussing race, health, gender and sexuality were returned to shelves under a court order.

The debate seemingly began in July 2021, when a community group began pushing for the removal of children’s books that they deemed “inappropriate,” according to court documents.

These books included two children series, dubbed the “Butt and Fart books” in the court order. The books “depict bodily functions in a humorous manner in cartoon format, because [critics] believed these books were obscene and promoted ‘grooming’ behavior.”

As months went on, the removal of books continued, targeting books that discussed race, discrimination, gender, sexuality or sexual health, court documents show.

In December 2021, the Llano County Commissioners Court, an elected governing body of the county, voted to close the library for three days to check the shelves for “inappropriate” books, however “inappropriate” was not defined, court documents show.

The Commissioners Court also voted to suspend access to the library’s online resources and dissolve the existing library advisory board, according to court documents.

Instead, a new advisory board was created and members of the community group that advocated for the book removals were appointed to it, according to the court order.

In April 2022, several Llano County residents sued county officials and the library over the book bans, calling the efforts to restrict books “censorship.”

“Book banning offends basic First Amendment principles and strikes at the core of our democracy,” read the lawsuit.

On March 31, a federal judge ordered the previously banned books to be put back on the shelves and allowed to be checked out and looked up in the library’s catalog. Now, the county Commissioners Court partially behind the move to remove books will decide the fate of the library system.

A representative for the Commissioners Court’s public information office declined ABC News’ request for comment regarding the reasoning behind the Thursday special meeting on the library’s potential closure, citing the pending litigation.

Book bans have been seen across the country in record-breaking numbers: Roughly 1,269 demands were made to censor library books and resources in 2022, according to the American Library Association. The organization says it is the highest number of attempted book bans since it began collecting data over 20 years ago.

The vast majority of book banning attempts were made against literature written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color, according to the ALA.

Leila Green Little, one of the residents involved in the lawsuit to bring back the books, called herself a “third generation patron of the Llano County Library System.”

Little said when she decided Llano County was where she wanted to raise her kids, she got them Llano County Library cards.

“My grandmother used to come to this library, my mother used to come to this library system, and they’ve both now passed so I feel a real connection to them when it comes to the library system,” she told ABC News. “My public library is where I have cried, where I have laughed, where. I’ve watched my children grow and learn, where I’ve studied.”

Little is also a member of the Llano County Library System Foundation, which offers support to the libraries through advocacy and grants, according to the foundation’s website.

She called the attempt to close the library system a “tantrum” by the local government.

“Libraries are extremely important to me,” she said. “I got involved in this preliminary injunction because I love my public library system and I must ensure that it serves the public.”

Little’s counsel, Emily Munoz, called the removal of books “censorship.”

“There’s nobody in Llano county that benefits from shutting the library,” said Munoz. “People are gonna lose their jobs. People are going to lose places where they meet. They’re going to lose the opportunity to read books, the opportunity to read books for free, a place to take their children.”

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