Coalition of Publishers, Booksellers, Librarians and Readers File Suit to Defend Arkansas Citizens’ Right to Read

Update: On July 29, U.S. District Judge Timothy Brook has granted the request to enjoin two of the five sections of this law. Read the full order here: DI 53 Order granting PI on sections 1 and 5.

A broad coalition of authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, and readers today filed suit challenging Arkansas Act 372, a law that would restrict access to books in bookstores and libraries located within the state, and in the process violate the first amendment rights of the state’s reading public. The bill was signed by the Governor of Arkansas on March 30 and is slated to go into effect on August 1.

For over 110 years, our public library in Central Arkansas has played a significant role with parents and teachers trying to encourage a love of books and reading among children and students of all ages.  And we have tried to make available materials reflecting all of the reading interests in the community.  To their dismay, our librarians now find themselves facing accusations of indoctrinating and harming children; and being subjected before the summer is over to a vague, confusing, impractical, and constitutionally dubious new law that could result in criminal charges against them if they fail to figure out which books must be isolated from all minors.   

 This is obviously an impossible situation to navigate without some judicial review. CALS and I have joined the lawsuit filed today to obtain that judicial guidance on this disturbing law that insults librarians and strikes at a fundamental freedom in America – for everyone to be free to read what we decide to read and what we want our children to read, not just what the government approves. 

Nate Coulter
CALS Executive Director
June 2, 2023

What the Bill Would Do

The lawsuit will challenge two provisions of Act 372 that violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. One component of the new law makes it a crime for libraries, booksellers, and any brick-and-mortar establishment to display or make available works that might be harmful to minors. This will require libraries and booksellers to limit all readers to books deemed appropriate for minors or exclude all minor readers from their shops. The second provision makes it possible for any person in Arkansas to demand the removal of a book the person deems inappropriate, limiting readers to one person’s opinion about what books should be in the library.


The plaintiffs in the suit include the American Booksellers Association, Author’s Guild, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, and two local bookstores–Wordsworth Books in Little Rock and Pearl’s Books in Fayetteville, and the Association of American Publishers, as well as a consortium of local libraries, librarians, and library advocates, which includes Fayetteville Public Library, Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library, Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), Arkansas Library Association, Advocates for All Arkansas Libraries, Nate Coulter (Executive Director of CALS); Adam Webb, a librarian from Garland County; Olivia Farrell, an adult CALS patron; and Hayden Kirby, a 17-year-old CALS patron.

Counsel for the various plaintiffs include Michael Bamberger of Dentons and general counsel to Media Coalition; John Adams, Bettina Brownstein; Benjamin Seel and Will Bardwell of Democracy Forward.


Continue reading about the challenge