Say No to Book Bans: Michigan Librarians Want You to Leave Books Alone

Books are displayed at the Patmos Library on August 11, 2022 in Jamestown. (Photo by Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Kyle Kaminski

August 3, 2023

A new statewide campaign from the Michigan Library Association is urging Michiganders to protect their right to read—and oppose the book-banning fervor that is still sweeping across the country.

MICHIGAN—About 2,000 librarians across the state have a message for Michigan:

Leave our books alone.

The Michigan Library Association this week launched a six-month campaign encouraging all Michiganders to oppose censorship and book banning efforts, and to protect citizens’ First Amendment right to read whatever they want at public libraries. The association—the oldest and largest of its kind in Michigan—represents nearly 2,000 library professionals across the state.

“The majority of Michiganders support the work our public libraries do and want to see various perspectives portrayed in the content available,” Debbie Mikula, association executive director, said in a statement. “Michigan’s public libraries are centers for community, and we want to ensure that librarians across Michigan can do their jobs and serve the needs of all individuals.”

While Michigan’s Democratic lawmakers have long stood against book bans, the state hasn’t been totally immune to censorship efforts that are plaguing libraries across the country. 

In Ottawa County’s Jamestown Township, for example, residents voted down a library millage in the last midterm election, forcing the closure of the only local library after staff refused to remove LGBTQ books from its collection. Earlier this year, an extremist movement was also responsible for simultaneously checking out nearly every LGBTQ-themed book from a library in Ferndale—just so local children would be unable to access the materials. 

The state House of Representatives also considered a resolution earlier this year to recognize and honor the contributions that librarians have made in their local communities, and to commend them for their work in promoting literacy. Every Republican lawmaker voted against it.

The new, six-month “MI Right to Read” campaign is designed to drum up more support for local libraries, and their ability to house books on topics like racism, sexuality, gender, and history. And it urges parents to join the frontlines to defend their local libraries from the rising extremism.

The stated goal: Protect Michiganders’ right to read, oppose attempts to ban books from Michigan libraries, educate the public about the right to read, oppose any legislation that infringes on Michiganders’ First Amendment rights, and ensure that librarians across Michigan will be trusted to continue to do their jobs and serve the needs of all individuals across the state.

Michiganders who want to support the campaign can share a variety of graphics on their social media pages to help raise awareness. Organizers have also asked that Michiganders write letters to the editors of their local newspapers and media outlets to help garner more support.

“Intellectual freedom is a core value of the library profession and a basic right in our democratic society. We believe that while a specific book may not be the right fit for one person, it may still be the perfect fit for another. No one individual or group should make sweeping decisions that take that process of careful consideration away from the experts and that choice away from readers,” according to a statement published on the MI Right to Read campaign website.

Michigan’s State Board of Education voted in June to take a stance against book bans with a resolution that called on local school leaders to follow best practices in handling any challenges regarding books in their libraries. It also affirmed that school librarians have the professional skills to select age-appropriate materials for students. The state Civil Rights Commission has also asked Attorney General Dana Nessel for an opinion on whether certain topics being banned at school libraries posed a form of discrimination prohibited by state civil rights law.

READ MORE: Michigan Board of Education Votes to Push Back Against Book Bans

In a statewide poll commissioned by Michigan Library Association, 75% of respondents said Michigan needs to protect access to books—especially for young people learning about different perspectives. About 83% of respondents said they would support state legislation to preempt book bans and protect the right of the public to read what they wish to read in public libraries.

“Our youth deserve to see themselves reflected in books available at their local public library,” Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist said in a statement announcing the new campaign this week. “Reading unlocks creativity, courage and imagination. Having diverse content available at our public libraries is crucial in making Michigan a better place for our kids to learn and grow.”

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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