Stories from Deep In the Heart of Texas: Why I’m Still Fighting Censorship in Llano, Texas

A true story about farting snowmen, broken butts & censorship in a Llano, Texas library, by Leila Green Little.

In the summer of 2021, several citizens in Llano county approached the recently promoted and unqualified public library system director about some books.  Their collective concern was that books such as Freddie the Farting Snowman by Jane Bexley and I Need a New Butt by Dawn McMillan were “inappropriate.”   

 


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These books and others were censored and removed from our public library shelves.  This was not done in accordance with our approved library policies and procedures.  

This affront to the constitutional rights of my six fellow plaintiffs and I led us to file a federal lawsuit and motion for a preliminary injunction against our county, elected county officials, the library director, and members of the library advisory board.  The preliminary injunction was granted by a federal judge in March of this year, and the books were returned to the catalog and the library shelves. 

The County’s response?  Two weeks after this injunction was issued, they held a meeting to vote on closure of the entire library system.  At that meeting, two current members of the library advisory board (and who are defendants in our lawsuit) advocated for the closure of our library system “until we get this filth off the shelves,” and because “the problem is the 250 that are still on the shelf,” respectively.2 

Recall, this started with butts and farts—but it’s apparent that’s not where Llano’s self-appointed moral arbiters want it to end. 

This is insane. 

Censorship is abhorrent and it must be opposed.  Have we as a society—not to mention individual elected officials?!--not learned our lesson from the moral panic caused by Senator Joseph McCarthy?  Or the resolution of United States v. One Book Called Ulysses?  Or efforts to ban the Harry Potter series? 

Today’s current organized movement of book banners (including those in Llano county) are no different than their forebears.  Each iteration of book banners believes it is unique and justified and right, and that this time is different.  After all, books today such as Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer must be so different and dangerous that they must be proscribed, right?  Wrong.  I’m sure Thomas Bowdler thought the same thing in 1807 when he published a sanitized version of William Shakespeare’s works.3  Book banners today are merely standing on the weak, misguided shoulders of censors from the past, such as Bostonians who censored Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the 1880s.  Past censorship movements were puerile and—thankfully--failed attempts to legislate morality, much like we are seeing today.  Today’s pro-censorship arguments are unoriginal and have been employed for decades and centuries heretofore.  There was concern about moral decay and exposure to sex then, just as there’s concern about moral decay and exposure to sex now. 

When hindsight allows us to look at the events of the 2020s censorship craze, it will be an unkind lens through which we view ourselves if we do not resist efforts to ban books.  That lens will be especially harsh on the public servants who support pro-censorship legislation and the voters that keep them in power.  

What is it going to take to get us to see that today’s push to censor books is as ridiculous as its predecessors’?  When will we learn that if we do not oppose censorship directly, that it will consume everything in its path? 

Judy Blume, who has blazed a trail of defending the right to read, said of censorship, “Take a stand…Don’t try to do it on your own.  No one can.  It’s up to all of us.”4  Judy, I couldn’t agree more. 

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References

  1. Gowen, A. (2022, April 25). Texas residents sue county for removing books, firing librarian. The Washington Post.   https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/04/25/texas-residents-sue-county-removing-books-firing-librarian/
  2. Anderson Cooper 360. (2023, April 14). Texas library in banned books battle stays open. Here’s what comes next. https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2023/04/14/texas-library-banned-books-stays-open-lavandera-vpx-ac360.cnn
  3. Eschner, K. (2017, July 11). The Bowdlers wanted to clean up Shakespeare, not become a byword for censorship. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/bowdlers-wanted-clean-shakespeare-not-become-byword-censorship-180963945/
  4. West, M. (2000). Judy Blume: A leader in the anticensorship movement. The Five Owls (January/February). https://judyblume.com/judy-blume-on-censorship/censorship-leader-2/

 

All other factual information about events in Llano county is verifiable.   News coverage can be found here:  https://padlet.com/lalubean/leila-green-little-et-al-v-llano-county-et-al-pskk6asn9z4cu9xz


About Leila Green Little

Leila Green Little is a rural mom and a graduate student in library sciences enrolled at the University of North Texas.  She has been fighting against censorship in her local public library system since 2021.  In 2022, she and six friends became plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit Leila Green Little, et. al, v. Llano County, et. al, which resulted in a preliminary injunction requiring Llano County to return censored books to the catalog and shelves of the public library.  The case is ongoing, awaiting ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  She and her 6 co-plaintiffs were the recipients of the 2023 Sam G. Whitten Award for Intellectual Freedom, given by the Texas Library Association.  In addition, she has advocated against pro-censorship legislation at the state capitol, and has spoken at national, state, and local conferences about her experience.  Previously, Ms. Little earned her master’s degree from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and had a career as a speech-language pathologist specializing in working with patients with head and neck cancer.  She likes to read banned books, and lives on a cattle ranch with her husband of 18 years and their kids. 

 


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