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Michigan librarians launch campaign to combat book bans, censorship

The photo shows a library with a lot of books on shelves. The shelves are made of light colored wood, and the books are arranged in a variety of colors and patterns.
Zaini Izzuddin

As calls grow across the country to ban certain books from public schools and libraries, some Michigan librarians are taking a stand. The Michigan Library Association is launching a six-month awareness campaign called MI Right To Read.

Organizers say they oppose attempts to pull books from public libraries in the state.

Scott Duimstra, the president of the Michigan Library Association, says some of these book bans infringe on First Amendment rights.

“Regardless of what your viewpoints are, your belief systems are, it's about protecting everyone's right when they walk into a public library, that they have access to materials that reflect their views, their lifestyles and their opinions as well," he added.

In the last couple of years, school districts and public libraries across the state have faced increasing pressure from some communities to censor certain books.

Most recently, a commissioner in Cass County proposed an ordinance in April that would criminalize the distribution of books with 'sexually explicit content'. While that proposal was dismissed before it could be voted on, a library in Ottawa County lost its funding following backlash for having books on LGBTQ+ themes.

"These were challenges towards those specific topics and a real threat not only for library workers but for public libraries as an institution as well," Duimstra added. "So, what we are advocating with the campaign is to show that there is overwhelming support for public libraries to follow the First Amendment and have open access."

In March of this year, the Michigan Library Association commissioned a statewide survey on the practice of censorship and support of public libraries.

According to the survey, 75% of respondents oppose book bans and censorship.

"And an overwhelming majority of respondents have a very positive view of libraries and librarianship," Duimstra added.

Of those surveyed, 86% of Democrats, 76% of Independents, and 46% of Republicans said books with discussions about sex, gender identity or sexual orientation should never be banned.

Duimstra says the campaign website offers resources on how to advocate against book censorship in local communities.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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