Mar 24, 2022 - Politics

How the library wars have played out in one Texas county

Illustration of a bookshelf with rainbow-colored books wrapped in "do not enter" yellow tape.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A former Llano County librarian alleges that she was fired for insubordination this month after refusing to remove books from the shelves.

Driving the news: Documents obtained by Axios and interviews we've conducted show how a group of residents has won control of the local library system and pushed for a purge of books touching on gender and race.

Why it matters: Llano County is a case study in how efforts to pull books off shelves have caught fire across Texas — and the rest of the country — as Republicans land on a hot-button issue ahead of midterm elections.

  • Top GOP politicians in the state, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, have called for investigating library inventory as a matter of parental control.
  • Books dealing with topics such as race and gender have been especially singled-out by state lawmakers as they raise alarms about “critical race theory” and transgender care.

Yes, but:

"Freedom to read is a right that must be protected in our schools and public libraries, and we must not give in to the vocal few that want to speak for the many."
— Austin Public Library director Roosevelt Weeks in December

Of note: Llano County, with population 21,000 and a median household income of $53,000, is 86% non-Hispanic white and went for Donald Trump by an 80-20 margin in 2020.

  • It spends about $600,000 a year on library operations. Austin, with a median household income of $72,000 and nearly a million people, has a library budget of about $60 million.
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