The governor of Illinois signed into law a bill that bans book bans, making Illinois the first state in the country to foist a legislative offense against mounting Republican-backed efforts to limit access to books that explore issues they consider controversial, such as race, inequality, gender, sex and LGBTQ+ topics.
“I refuse to let a dangerous strain of white nationalism determine whose histories are told in Illinois,” said Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker during the bill signing at a children’s library in downtown Chicago. “Because what these book bans in libraries really are about is censorship – marginalizing people, ideas and facts.”
“I want our children to learn our history – warts and all,” he said. “Read as much as you can. Read different perspectives. Read challenging ideas.”
Under the new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, Illinois public libraries must adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which states, among other things, that “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” Any library that restricts or bans materials because of “partisan or doctrinal” disapproval will be ineligible for state funding.
Last year, more than 2,500 different books were objected to, compared to 1,858 in 2021 and just 566 in 2019, according to a recent report from the American Library Association – the most since the organization began tracking that data 20 years ago.
The vast majority of complaints come from conservatives, the report underscored, directed at books that explore LGBTQ+ issues and themes of race and inequality. Among the popular targets are Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer,” Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy,” Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give” and the book edition of the “1619 Project,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning package from The New York Times that traces systemic racism to slavery in the U.S.