Apr 24, 2023 - Politics

Book banning efforts get closer to New Orleans

Illustration of a bookshelf with rainbow-colored books wrapped in "do not enter" yellow tape.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The national book ban debate is encroaching on New Orleans, with Jefferson Parish Library and St. Tammany Library leaders both now reviewing books after complaints were made about LGTBQ+ content and other titles.

Why it matters: The New Orleans Public Library has so far not been targeted by efforts seen elsewhere in the state to ban or restrict books, library officials tell Axios.

The big picture: Book banning is a hot topic in Louisiana.

  • In Lafayette, a Pride Month display was banned last year at the public library, NPR reports. The move came a few years after Drag Queen Story Time was canceled and the ACLU intervened.
  • Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry launched a tip line last year where people can report concerns about librarians and teachers, the Louisiana Illuminator reports.
  • Landry — who is running for governor on the Republican ticket — also said he wants to restrict what minors can check out at public libraries, NOLA.com reports.
  • The state Senate is considering a bill about library card restrictions. The House is looking at a similar one.

The bottom line: New Orleans library officials say they have a process for patrons to request the removal or reclassification of titles, but the final decision is up to the library's board of directors.

  • "There haven't been any challenges to our collection in many years," Mat Bowers, head of the library's acquisitions department, tells Axios.
  • The library's collection development mission is to provide a "broad and relevant collection of materials … to people of differing ages, ethnic groups, lifestyles and points of view."
  • "As a rule, we do not ban books," Bowers tells Axios.

What's next: Books remain under review.

  • In Jefferson Parish, the 12 challenged books remain in active circulation, spokesperson Gretchen Hirt Gendron tells Axios. A committee of librarians is expected to make recommendations to the library director by the end of the month.
  • In St. Tammany, the Library Control Board voted to keep five challenged books, the Illuminator reports. Another 152 were under review as of March.

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