School librarian Amanda Jones faced harassment and threats after defending a diverse selection of books in Livingston Parish, LA public libraries. The library board meetings turned into heated arguments over books deemed inappropriate for children. Librarians are being vilified and targeted, leading many to fear for their safety and quit their jobs. The toll this battle over books is taking on librarians, children, and communities is significant. The exodus of librarians has left libraries understaffed and struggling to find replacements. Tovia Smith reported
School librarian Amanda Jones faced harassment and threats after defending a diverse selection of books in the public libraries of Livingston Parish, LA. The conflict began during meetings of the Livingston Parish Library Board of Control, where discussions about books deemed too sexual and harmful to children turned into heated arguments. Insults, interruptions, and profanity became common occurrences at these meetings. In the most recent meeting, tensions rose over plans to remove challenged books from library shelves immediately, even if the review process took months or longer. One board member compared it to suspending a teacher accused of sexual harassment until an investigation was completed, while others argued against this policy, stating that it would give one person the power to ban a book for the entire community.
The troubles didn’t stop at the meetings. After one meeting, a board member confronted a conservative activist who had insinuated online that she was a groomer. The activist argued that she was now a public figure and that he had the right to talk about her. This kind of conflict has become the “new normal” not just in Livingston Parish but across the country. Librarians, administrators, and teachers who defend books are now being shouted down, vilified on billboards, reported to the police, and harassed online. Many fear for their safety, with some receiving death threats.
Amanda Jones, in particular, faced a barrage of insults and threats on social media. Her comments at a library board meeting were twisted online, and she was falsely accused of advocating for teaching explicit content to children. She received terrifying messages that left her hyperventilating and fearing for her life. The situation took a toll on her mental and physical health, leading to panic attacks, weight loss, hair loss, and a six-month medical leave. She even felt the need to carry a gun for protection.
Unfortunately, this situation is not unique to Livingston Parish. Librarians all over the country are also experiencing similar attacks and harassment, causing many to quit their jobs. The battle over books is not only impacting individuals but also affecting libraries as a whole. Libraries are now facing staffing shortages, with many librarians leaving due to safety concerns. Livingston Parish library director Michelle Parrish reveals that staffing is down nearly 30 percent, and attracting new candidates has become increasingly difficult.
The exodus of librarians has severe consequences, as libraries struggle to maintain their services and fulfill their mission of providing access to information. In addition to the personal toll on librarians, the battle over books has also led to strict new laws and regulations, such as Louisiana’s law restricting minors’ access to explicit material in libraries.
The situation is disheartening for librarians who have dedicated their lives to their profession. Many have had to make the difficult decision to leave their jobs, uprooting their families and sacrificing retirement benefits. This loss of passionate and experienced librarians is a significant blow to the field and leaves a void in communities.
Overall, the conflict over book selection and censorship is causing harm not only to individuals like Amanda Jones but also to the library system and the communities they serve. It is a concerning trend that needs to be addressed to preserve the vital role that libraries play in promoting knowledge and understanding..