Mar 24, 2022 - Politics

Llano commissioners target books deemed "pornographic filth"

Illustration of a book wrapped in caution tape
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Last year, Bonnie Wallace, in an email alerting Llano County commissioners about "pornographic filth" in their libraries, sent commissioners a list of about 60 books that "can be checked out by our children and grandchildren" that should relocated to the adult section.

What they're saying: "This is atrocious," wrote Wallace, who would later be named a vice chair of the county library advisory board by the commissioners, per documents obtained by Axios.

Among the titles:

Wallace warned that if "more radicals come to town," they "could use the fact that we censored these books against us" if the books are removed altogether.

Of note: During the pandemic, Austinites began looking further afield for housing amid a rise in remote work and spiraling property costs.

A commissioner ordered the head librarian to get rid of any copies of "Lawn Boy" or "Gender Queer" — available at the time to readers through the online book-borrowing service the county was using.

What they're saying: The Llano Library System "reviewed and recategorized the children's book section to provide parents a better insight" into the books available to young readers, Cunningham, the county judge, told Axios.

  • Llano County "is committed to continuing to provide excellent public library services consistent with community needs and standards," he said.
  • The online book-borrowing vendor was switched because parental controls could be "easily disabled" by children, Cunningham said.
  • And he said that by remaking the library advisory board, the county had "expanded citizen participation."

Zoom out: Llano County has a troubled recent history involving race.

  • A Facebook posting in 2020 featured a recording of the Llano County Sheriff saying, "I don't trust groups of blacks."
  • At a candidate forum that year Sheriff Bill Blackburn confirmed the voice was his: "I am not racist," he said. "I never have been."
  • He was reelected in a landslide.
  • Last year the executive director of the Llano Chamber of Commerce was forced to apologize for a Juneteenth message posted on the central town square marquee that it operates.
  • "Happy Juneteenth," announced the marquee. "You're free. Stand up and live like it."
A screenshot of a tweet about Juneteenth
Screenshot via @KVUE/Twitter

The marquee is yards from the county's memorial to the Confederate dead.

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