Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law Monday that prohibits book bans in its public schools and libraries.
“Book bans are about censorship, marginalizing people and marginalizing ideas,” Pritzker said, surrounded by librarians and educators at Chicago’s Harold Washington Public Library. “Regimes ban books, not democracies.”
The first-in-the-nation law is a defense against a nationwide trend demanding that books be removed from library shelves. Many of the challenged books are written by or describe the experiences of people of color or who are part of the LGBTQ community.
“While certain hypocritical governors are banning books written by L.G.B.T.Q. authors, but then claiming censorship when the media fact-checks them, we are showing the nation what it really looks like to stand up for liberty,” Pritzker said.
From July to December 2022, PEN America found 1,477 instances of individual books banned, affecting 874 unique titles.
Under the bill, Illinois would not authorize state grants to libraries that do not endorse the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights or otherwise promise not to take from the shelves books already in their collections.
“I think it’s going to impact the community of libraries in Illinois,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Chris Brown. “In Chicago, we are extremely proud of our book sanctuary initiative. … We are safe spaces for all voices and materials.”
Brian Johnson, the CEO of Equality Illinois said it is a significant symbol that the bill was signed during Pride Month. “If reading materials are denied to us, we are denied an opportunity to learn about ourselves,” he said.
The executive director of the Chicago-based American Library Association called the legislation “historic.” Tracy Hall said her group has always insisted that “free people must always read freely.”