Board Approves Challenge of Act 372
Update: On May 25, the CALS board of directors authorized a lawsuit in federal court challenging elements of Act 372. The lawsuit will include as co-plaintiffs a number of other parties, including the Fayetteville Public Library, bookstores, and several individuals.
Under a new law in Arkansas, effective August 1, 2023, librarians will be subject to criminal charges with a penalty of up to a year in prison for furnishing an item considered harmful to minors. This threat will hang over the new process for challenging materials in public libraries that is also created by the law.
The authors of the bill seek to intimidate librarians and chill their efforts to provide an array of reading material for all audiences in the community. Under the provisions of the new law (Act 372), interpreting the term “harmful to minors” will not be up to a court of law but the city board or county quorum court where the public library is funded since the law decrees that those local legislative bodies have final authority over the challenge process set up by the bill.
As the executive director of the largest public library in the state, and one that thankfully enjoys strong support from local government leaders and local taxpayers, I firmly believe that it is the responsibility of the Central Arkansas Library System to challenge this law that in the guise of “protecting children” threatens librarians and attacks our freedoms and values. Our legal counsel, in consultation with lawyers from around the country whose careers have been devoted to litigating the preservation of free speech and the freedom to read, recommend that we proceed with filing a federal lawsuit as quickly as feasible.
In the wake of the CALS board’s decision on April 27 to authorize the continued exploration of litigation options, I have received an outpouring of support. Some have offered to donate to a library fund to defray part of the cost of the litigation. If you are interested in donating to the legal fund to fight censorship and the suppression of ideas that animated the enactment of Act 372, please follow this link to the CALS Foundation site. All donations made there will be used for the purpose of underwriting the costs of CALS in the pursuit of fighting censorship and protecting the freedom to read. If you cannot afford to donate, feel free to share the link with friends.
Recent news about Act 372:
Article from Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on May 26
Article from the Arkansas Advocate on May 25
Article from the Arkansas Times on May 25
Article from the Washington Post on May 18
Article from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on May 2.
Article from Arkansas Advocate on May 1.
Segment from KUAF on April 29.
Article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 2.
Article from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on February 26.
Article from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on February 24.