US appeals court orders return of books to Texas public library after book ban News
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US appeals court orders return of books to Texas public library after book ban

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed Thursday a District Court’s ruling to return books to a Texas public library after they were removed because of their viewpoint and content. This was a partial victory for the plaintiffs, as eight of the 17 banned books are to be returned to shelves.

The Llano County Library in Texas removed 17 books in 2021 after the library received  complaints about the books being too sexual to be in the children’s section. The plaintiffs, seven patrons of the Llano County library system, brought suit against Llano County, the members of the County’s Commissioners Court, the library system director, and the library board for pulling the books from the system, alleging that the defendant’s violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

At the beginning of this litigation, the defendant’s attorney donated copies of the 17 books back to the library. However, to access these books, a patron had to explicitly ask for them. They are currently not on the shelves or displayed in the system. In March 2023, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ordered the 17 books to be returned to the shelves. On appeal, the Appeals Court affirmed the ruling. Judge Weiner wrote, “a book may not be removed for the sole—or a substantial— reason that the decisionmaker does not wish patrons to be able to access the book’s viewpoint or message.” However, out of the three judge panel, one affirmed, one agreed eight books should be returned, and one dissented. This meant there was majority support to return eight books to the shelves.

The library began to pull books when one resident, who now resides on the library board and checked out the books for months to prevent others from accessing them, made a complaint. After being told to pull the books by the Judge who oversees the library and the commissioner, the library director removed the books from the shelves. Months later, the library director was forced to pull more books after receiving additional complaints. The library director was given a list, deemed the Wallace list after the patron who wrote it, and pulled all the books on it. The books on this list focused on the LGBTQ+ community, puberty, and the history of racism in the United States.

The book ban was quite controversial, with UniteAgainstBookBans taking to X (formerly Twitter) in 2023 to say, “To Llano County commissioners who want to close their public library, banning books is more important than serving communities. We stand with library workers & library users in Llano.” The American Library Association reposted this tweet, urging people to speak up against the book ban.