WHAT: During Banned Books Week, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Harris County Public Library (HCPL) Director Edward Melton will discuss HCPL’s status as a “Book Sanctuary” and inform the public that a vast majority of Texas’ “banned books” are available for checkout at library branches. A Book Sanctuary system combats censorship, defends intellectual freedom and protects the right to read. At HCPL branches, over 600 of the 800 banned titles are in circulation. American Library Association and PEN America each have reported that Texas leads the nation in banned book. Some of the banned books that will be available at libraries are The Bluest Eye, Maus, All Boys Aren't Blue and Separate is Never Equal. Commissioner Ellis and Melton feel immediate action is necessary because Houston ISD has turned the libraries in over 50 schools into ”discipline centers.” They will reiterate that HCPL rejects censorship and exclusion in Harris County.
WHO: Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis
Edward Melton, Director of Harris County Public Library
WHEN: Monday, Oct. 2, 11:30 a.m.
WHERE: HCPL West University Branch | 6108 Auden St., Houston, 77005
VISUALS: Officials displaying some of the “banned books.”
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Harris County Public Library (HCPL) Director Edward Melton on Monday, Oct. 2 will kick off Banned Book Week by announcing that the vast majority of Texas’ “banned books” are available for checkout at library branches. They also will discuss HCPL’s status as a “Book Sanctuary.”
A July New York Times article noted that as efforts to ban books have gained additional traction, librarians have come under intense scrutiny and even personal attacks. Many are leaving the profession due to this burdensome pressure.
“In Harris County, we support our librarians and the right to read. We will not allow people to whitewash history to fit their political narrative.” Commissioner Ellis said.
Commissioner Ellis’s and Melton’s announcement comes about two weeks after Commissioners Court voted to approve a resolution that turns the HCPL into a “Book Sanctuary” system that combats censorship, defends intellectual freedom and protects the right to read.
Texas leads the nation in the number of banned books, according to separate reports by American Library Association and PEN America. In addition, a federal appeals court has overturned a U.S. district judge’s ruling that temporarily stops the state from enforcing House Bill 900, which requires book vendors who sell to Texas public schools to rate every publication on the basis of sexual content. The appeals court ruling allows the state to proceed with implementing the law while book vendors’ lawsuit continues in the court system.
To combat the banned books movement, Saturday, Oct. 7 has been designated as Let Freedom Read Day. Everyone is being asked to take at least one action to help defend books from censorship and to stand up for the library staff, educators, writers, publishers and booksellers who make them available.
“In the greater Houston area, 67 books were banned in our school systems last school year,” Commissioner Ellis said. “Our largest school system, Houston ISD, has turned the libraries in over 50 schools into ‘discipline centers,’ which led to the displacement of countless librarians. We must protect and promote libraries as centers of learning, diversity, equity and inclusion.”