Librarians rally in Texas as book bans increase


In Texas, libraries are a political battleground. On the same day that the Texas Library Association convened its annual in-person convention for the first time since 2019, attendees learned that residents of Llano, a rural county outside Austin, were fighting back efforts by Republican politicians to censor local libraries. It was perhaps a milder irony that the TLA conference, which ran from April 25-28, was held in Fort Worth, State Rep. Matt Kraus’ district. Kraus launched a campaign to ban books in Texas last October, when he sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency asking school districts to investigate the presence of more than 850 diverse and inclusive books in school libraries.

Commenting on the Llano news, Darryl Tocker, executive director of the Tocker Foundation, the state’s largest charity involved in supporting rural public libraries, said TP, “It’s bad what happens in public libraries. There’s no other word for it.”

The TLA was clearly opposed to Kraus’ position. Not only did the conference open Monday evening with a keynote address by Alyssa Edwards, a famous drag queen (who herself drew a handful of protesters), but it was followed Tuesday morning by Ibram X. Kendi , in conversation with Roosevelt Weeks, discussing his work, including his forthcoming book How to raise an anti-racist. “The more you understand and appreciate other cultures, the more you understand and appreciate your own,” Kendi said at the event.

One fan of Kendi’s appearance was Donya Craddock, co-owner of The Dock Bookshop, a black-owned bookstore in Fort Worth. “I think it just taps into people’s subconscious, and it makes people say hey, I want to learn and read more.” Craddock was selling books at the show and said business was “stable”. She added that librarians in general are good customers and are particularly keen on graphic novels and mid-level fiction for a variety of readers. In fact, the topic of DEI was central to the show and was the dominant theme of most panels, with many focusing on how librarians can audit their existing collections and then augment them to cater to a wider range of customers. .

Marina Tristán, deputy director and marketing supervisor at Arte Pûblico Press, said there was strong interest in Spanish-English bilingual children’s books. “It’s a growing category for us, especially as librarians are increasingly aware of the huge unmet demand for books,” she said.

School librarians remain the primary audience for TLA vendors and exhibitors, which range from conglomerates like Penguin Random House and HarperCollins to small regional publishers like Dexterity of Nashville, as well as local organizations, such as the Writers’ League of Texas and Authors Marketing. International, both based in Austin.

“It’s just great to be back among friends and colleagues,” said Carmen Abrego, who works in communications at the Houston Public Library. “I missed seeing my people so much.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the 2/5/2022 issue of Weekly editors under the title: Librarians gather in Texas


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