Mar 24, 2022 - News

How a Texas county tried to purge books

Bumper stickers on the back of a van
Bumper stickers depicting Nancy Pelosi with horns and the Texas flag with the words "No Vacancy" on a van at the Kingsland H-E-B. Photo: Asher Price/Axios

After a Texas lawmaker last year released a list of 850 books he deemed objectionable — many written by Latino or Black authors or about gender matters — some Llano County residents "combed through" it "to see which we have in Llano County," per an email obtained by Axios by Rochelle Wells, one of the people pushing for a review.

Why it matters: The emails reveal how activists were determined to remake the library catalog for young readers.

  • "We will be sending a list of the ones that are found to be inappropriate" to the commissioners, Wells wrote.
  • In November, Bonnie Wallace, another Llano County resident, sent the commissioners an email with the subject line "Pornographic Filth at the Llano Public Libraries."
  • Her email took aim at a gender-queer memoir available through an online book-borrowing portal.

Forwarding Wallace's email to the library director, the county judge — the county's highest elected official — ordered that "any and all books that depict any type of sexual activity or questionable nudity are to be pulled immediately."

  • "We are all working on getting books pulled," the library director wrote the county judge two days later.

Between the lines: The following month, the county commissioners:

  • Voted to suspend the library's online book-borrowing system — thus cutting off access to titles that might not be physically on Llano library shelves.
  • Ordered the libraries close for three days to review the book holdings.
  • Remade the library advisory board, cutting out appointees of the library friends group and the Llano Ladies Culture Club, which previously nominated some appointees.

What they're saying: "God has been so good to us and given us favor in the eyes of the community and the Commissioners," Wells wrote to her compatriots in December.

  • "I am very thankful to Him for sending all of you to fight this battle for the protection of the hearts and minds of the kids of Llano. Please continue to pray for the librarians and that their eyes would be opened to the truth."

Yes but: "I'm a Christian, but these people are so straight-laced," Jeanne Puryear, who had served on the library board before the county commissioners reshuffled it, told Axios. "You couldn't seem to get any truthful, factual information to any of these people. They were sure they were right."

The bottom line: Earlier this year, Wells was made secretary of the newly installed Library Advisory Board and Wallace the vice chair.

  • Library board officers did not respond to Axios interview requests.
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