A coalition of publishers, booksellers, librarians, and readers have filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas government over a law they say is censorship and seeks to “ban books in libraries and criminalize librarians."
“Library workers across Arkansas are rightly concerned that the overly broad edicts of Act 372 will prevent them from serving their patrons as they have always done, by providing a wide variety of materials to fill their information needs, and perhaps more importantly, materials that allow each child to see themselves in the books in their library," Carol Coffey, president of the Arkansas Library Association, told The Guardian.
Act 372, signed by state governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders on March 31 and set to go into effect August, threatens librarians as well as booksellers with hefty fines of $10,000 and even two years in prison if they distribute material deemed “harmful to minors."
In their suit, the plaintiffs argue that the legislation violates their first and fourteenth amendment rights, and is a “vague, sweeping law that restrains public libraries and booksellers." Due to the vague nature of the law, many educators and librarians are now uncertain of what materials they could be prosecuted over. Many have expressed anxiety from simply doing their jobs.
“The primary mission of the Arkansas Library Association is to support libraries and library workers and to defend intellectual freedom. We join in this lawsuit because it is the best way for us to fulfill our mission," Coffey added.
According to the American Library Association, 2022 was a record year for book bans, with a 138 percent increase over 2021. Overall, 2,571 titles challenged by parents, patrons, and other organizations.
“My hope is that all residents of Arkansas and the US will be able to read freely," Coffey continued, "That all parents will be able to make the choices they believe best for their families and that those choices will not be limited by the desires of a few outspoken people who believe they know best for everyone.”