Texas Senate zeroes in on school libraries

Proposed bill to create advisory councils in every district to decide which books are allowed


Alex Whelchel

Book bans and censorships continue in school libraries across Texas with new Senate Bill.

Alex Whelchel, Staff Writer

The Texas Senate is considering a bill that would regulate what books public school libraries can contain based on “local community values.” 

Senate Bill 13 would create a district wide council to select what books are in the libraries and give parents increased access to their children’s check-out history and ability to question books.

“I’m not exactly an expert, but essentially the state wants there to be a library advisory council for every district,” librarian Amanda Trussell said. “That council would make all the decisions regarding books and things in the library.”

This bill has librarians across the state outraged because of the decrease in privacy that will come with it.

“The library advisory council is a huge disappointment to me,” Trussell said. “First of all, this is a violation of students’ rights, and anytime we are willingly allowing people to violate rights it’s a problem. Even if you’re under 18 and not an adult, that’s a problem. I think when we limit our world views and limit what we are allowing people to learn about then we start to limit what we understand and how we treat others.

“It makes me question if that were to pass what my role will be in the school at that point. I would say I spend at least 50 percent of my time reading reviews and looking for books, and if that role is taken away from me, then what is my purpose on this school campus?”

This bill comes after State Sen. Angela Paxton was appalled to see the content held in school libraries. 

This bill seeks to ensure that all students, regardless of their school or school district, can safely enjoy a school library that adheres to these best and safe practices.” Paxton said in an  interview with The Corsicana Daily Sun

At the beginning of each school year, parents will receive a letter inquiring about whether they would like to get a notice each time their child “obtains a school library material from a library in the district.”

“The board of trustees of each school district shall establish a local school library advisory council to assist the district in ensuring that local community values are reflected in each school library catalog in the district.,” the bill reads.

After hearing about this bill, Trussell couldn’t help but think of students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as minorities. She fears that if a student checks out a book with LGBTQ topics, but they have not yet disclosed that with their parents, problems could arise at home.

I look at it too that there are a lot of people who don’t think their children should date or be friends with people of other races,” she said. “So if they’re looking at your reading history and you’ve read books that have main characters from other races, that could cause a problem for you at home. My concern is that parents will use it as a weapon against their children and not as something to help their kids.”

Although Trussell feels so strongly about this issue, she is hesitant to get involved in rallying against it. After seeing a Louisiana librarian Amanda Jones receive death threats for speaking out, Trussell fears what might happen to her if she does the same.

“(Jones) lost her job, and she’s almost been run out of her town,” Trussell said. “Lots of librarians across the country are losing their jobs. So you’re kinda stuck between like ‘I’d like to have my job’ but ‘I also want to protect my job and my students.’”

After Jones spoke up about book censorship in libraries, the threats began rolling in. After these threats, she filed a lawsuit against two men who labeled her a “pedophile” for simply doing her job. 

“It’s not just happening to me; it’s happened to tons of educators across the United States,” Jones said in an interview with Education Week. “I do really encourage people when this happens to make sure they build their support system and weigh the pros and cons of speaking out. Sometimes in your communities and where you live, you have to do what’s safest for you.”

Parents of students in the district find this bill to unnecessary and a bad utilization of resources. 

“We need to trust the professionals chosen by the district and their processes to choose books that are appropriate for our students,” one Comal ISD parent and teacher said. “If we start micromanaging education positions, then we risk losing great educators, which is already a concerning problem.”

This person said the library material is appropriate and not concerning in any way as a parent.

“I feel that the school district librarians research books that are appropriate for the age range of the kids,” they said. “If my child checks out a book that is something I am concerned about, then I will have that conversation with my child.”

If this bill receives a two-thirds majority vote it will take effect immediately. If it does not receive the majority but is passed, it will take effect on Sept. 1.

“I think it has to do with control and fear, and we have a population of people that want to control everyone and everything,” Trussell said. “They fear new ideas, and they fear different ideas, and I think books are one way to control that.”