Dems introduce legislation to prevent book bans at public libraries and schools in New Jersey

stack of books
“Banned Books #4” by ellen.w, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Two Democrats have introduced bills in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate that would prevent public libraries and public schools from banning books.

The legislation would prevent the censorship of any book for “partisan or doctrinal” reasons and would require the libraries to adopt the American Library Association’s “library bill of rights,” or a similar policy.

The Bill of Rights, which helped shape the legislation, has been described by the American Library Association, says:

  • Unambiguous statements of basic principles that should govern the service of all libraries
  • Reading materials should not be removed or restricted because of partisan or personal reasons.
  • All libraries should be respected as forums for information and ideas, and
  • Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

Earlier this month, Illinois became the first state to pass a bill aimed at preventing book bans. The terms of the Illinois bill authorize the secretary of state’s office to restrict funding from libraries that don’t adhere to the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights. According to the American Library Association, there were at least 67 attempts to ban books in Illinois in 2002, up significantly from the previous year. More than 2,500 books were objected to during 2022, according to association.

“Our libraries are a sacred community resource, not a place for careless censorship. The materials they offer should not be restricted based on partisan views or revisionist history,” said Senate Majority Leader Ruiz (D-Essex), in a press release about the bill. “Libraries often provide the foundation for children’s education and become incubators of ideas. We must protect these critical institutions which continue to be instrumental in shaping young minds.”

The bill, S-3907, would authorize the New Jersey State Librarian to direct state treasury officials to withhold funding from any public school or library that fails to comply, and would deter school boards from banning or restricting access to books or other resource materials in their school libraries.

“This is about preventing censorship and keeping intolerance and hatred from being infused into public libraries in New Jersey,” said Senator Andrew Zwicker, who represents the 16th District, which includes Princeton, South Brunswick, and portions of Hunterdon and Somerset counties.

“The fact that we are in 2023 and debating whether or not we should be banning books and ideas is just outrageous,” Zwicker said in the press release about the legislation. “Ideas and information are meant to be discussed and debated in a society that respects the right of free expression and values the pursuit of knowledge.”