A federal lawsuit has been filed to fight for the right for libraries to provide sexually explicit books to Arkansas children.
The American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, the American Booksellers Association, and the Authors Guild are among 17 plaintiffs suing over a ban on libraries offering children obscene books in the state.
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the ban into law on March 31, and it will go into effect on August 1 — just before the start of the new school year.
The bill, Senate Bill 81, adds library materials to the statute governing the possession and distribution of obscene material.
Previously, schools and public libraries were exempt from prosecution “for disseminating a writing, film, slide, drawing, or other visual reproduction that is claimed to be obscene.”
Under the new law, parents and other members of the community can challenge the appropriateness of a book that is being offered to minors in schools or public libraries. Additionally, employees of public or school libraries that knowingly provide obscene material to a minor can face a Class D felony.
In a statement to Publisher’s Weekly, the American Library Association claimed that the lawsuit is about the “freedom to read.”
“The American Library Association is pleased that the Freedom to Read Foundation, our First Amendment legal defense arm, and our state affiliate, the Arkansas Library Association, are participating in the lawsuit to vindicate Arkansas residents’ freedom to read,” ALA president Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada told PW. “The government has no place in deciding what books people can borrow or buy.”
The report lists the current plaintiffs as:
- Central Arkansas Library System
- Fayetteville Public Library
- The Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library
- Garland County Library executive director Adam Webb
- CALS executive director Nate Coulter
- Arkansas Library Association
- Advocates for All Arkansas Libraries
- The Authors Guild
- The American Booksellers’ Association
- The Association of American Publishers
- The Freedom to Read Foundation
- The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
- WordsWorth Books (an independent bookstore in Little Rock)
- Pearl’s Books (an independent bookstore in Fayetteville)
- Hayden Kirby (a 17-year-old CALS patron and a student at Little Rock Central High School
- Jennie Kirby (Hayden’s mother)
- Olivia Farrell (an adult CALS patron)