It’s great that they’re doing this, and terrible that they have to.
As book bans and challenges occur across the state and nation, Harris County libraries have joined a movement dedicated to preserving people’s right to decide for themselves what they want to read.
Harris County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday for the Harris County Public Library system to become a Book Sanctuary, joining a network of 2,828 book sanctuaries across the United States.
According to the resolution, “The freedom to read is under threat across the nation, and nowhere more so than in the state of Texas which challenged 2,349 books, of which at least 511 were removed from school libraries and classrooms in 2022, and is on pace to once again lead the nation in challenging and removing books in 2023.”
Chicago established the nation’s first Book Sanctuary in September 2022 during Banned Books Week and set up a website inviting other institutions to follow suit.
“A book sanctuary is a physical or digital space that actively protects the freedom to read. It provides shelter and access to endangered books, and can be created by anyone and can exist anywhere — in a library, a classroom, a coffee shop corner, a community center, public park, your bedroom bookshelf, or even on social media,” according to the Book Sanctuary toolkit.
Last year, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis said during Banned Books Week the county library had over 600 banned titles in its circulation.
Between the Legislature and various rogue school districts, there are unfortunately a lot of reasons to need something like this. I’m glad Harris County took this step, and I hope that someday we can look back on it and have a somewhat uneasy laugh about what a strange time in history that was. Assuming the next Lege doesn’t ban cities and counties from establishing themselves as “book sanctuaries”, that is.