Bill to prevent book bans in public libraries advances to Colorado House

DENVER (KDVR) — The Colorado House considered a measure on Monday that sponsors say is intended to prevent book bans in libraries across the state.

The bill is called “Standards for Decisions Regarding Library Resources” and was sponsored by three Democrats. If passed, it would ensure public libraries have written policies for retention, acquisition, display, use of library resources and use of a public library facility.

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Under the bill, libraries could not remove content based on the author’s demographics or “partisan disapproval of the topic.”

“Librarians work hard to provide their patrons with an inclusive array of materials, but culture war extremists are attacking them trying to deny other library-goers materials and programming they don’t agree with,” said primary sponsor Sen. Lisa Cutter in a release. “As more states move to ban books and limit citizens’ freedoms, we have to protect free speech and ensure access to information in Colorado. This bill protects librarians and ensures libraries remain welcoming and enriching spaces for all.”

Colorado saw several fights over library book content in 2023, including a fight with the Douglas County Libraries, in which a conservative men’s group sought to ban four books with LGBTQ+ themes.

The bill that advanced through the Senate last week isn’t the first such bill presented this legislative session — another bill died in February that would have provided similar protections for public libraries and public school libraries. The present measure does not include schools.

“The freedom to read is one of our most precious rights, providing us with knowledge and skills to think critically and be informed citizens,” Sen. Dafna Michaelson Jenet said in a release. “Most books challenged have been written by or about a historically marginalized group. This political tactic has dire consequences, especially for children, whom research shows benefit from culturally and racially responsive representation. Our communities deserve to be represented in public spaces like libraries, and codifying those legal standards demonstrates our commitment to protecting all Coloradans.”

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If the measure passed, libraries would be able to remove materials based only on the policies that are adopted. Librarians would also be protected from retaliation, discrimination and termination if they refuse to remove a resource before it has been reviewed under the policy, or for making displays, acquisitions or programming decisions that the employee believes to be following the standards established by the state bill.

The bill would also publicize all requests for an item or resource to be removed and require that the person making that request reside in the library’s service area. For example, if someone requests a book be removed from Elbert County, they must live in Elbert County.

The measure passed the Senate with amendments and was sent to the House Committee on Transportation, Housing and Local Government, which also passed the measure. It was heard on the House Floor on Monday.

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