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Safe spaces for all

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If you’ve been keeping abreast of news in the United States, you’ll already know about the terrible things happening in their library spaces recently. I briefly touched on the subject back in November when I spoke about book bans and censorship but since then, the situation in the US has escalated – and it’s starting to rear its ugly head in Australia.

The TLDR version (Too Long, Didn’t Read) of the situation is that the American Library Association (ALA) have seen a marked increase in the number of challenges to books in both public and school libraries. The pressure is coming from certain community groups, who believe that if a book goes against their own personal values, then it needs to be banned so that no one can read it. Books that have people of colour as the protagonists, depict LGBTQI+ relationships, and that discuss women’s health issues have been targeted the most.

Many books have been removed from circulation (effectively ‘banned’) across the country. Some have fought back against the bans, with some residents of Llano County suing officials for breaching their constitutional rights by removing 12 books from their library service. A federal judge ordered the return of the books but, in a sadly unsurprising twist, county officials considered shutting down the library system instead of returning the books. Yes, you read that correctly. Ultimately they decided to keep the three branches open for now and will fight the decision in court.

Now, I’m not allowed to use the words that I’d like to about this situation in a public forum, but let’s just say that I find it very upsetting. Libraries are supposed to be neutral places to access information without being judged, threatened, or harmed. Libraries are supposed to be SAFE places. Library collections should represent diversity, cover a range of viewpoints, and not be biased by personal beliefs and values.

Far-right activists in Australia have already started calling for certain books to be banned here as well, but so far The Australian Classification Board has not agreed that they should be restricted. The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian Public Library Alliance (APLA) also released a joint statement in support of free access to information in Australia. “ALIA will continue to work to ensure that all Australians have the freedom to choose what they read, that libraries and information services are welcoming and inclusive places for all Australians and that library and information staff are supported in their professional duties.”

I stand with ALIA and APLA, and the Bindoon Library will continue to be a safe, accessible, and inclusive place for everyone in our community.