LLANO, Texas — The Llano County Library will be shut down for four days this week, but the closure won't be because of the Christmas holiday.
According to a report from The Texas Tribune, a group of six librarians will be conducting a "thorough review" of every children's book in the library, at the behest of the Llano County Commissioners Court. The group will be checking to make sure all of the reading material for younger readers includes subjects that are age-appropriate. Additionally, a new "young adults plus" section will be added to separate books written for an older teen audience from those written for younger readers.
Llano County Public Library Director Amber Millum told KVUE that during this week's temporary closure of all three of their libraries, they will be labeling each book by genre, such as "romance" or "mystery." She also said they will be putting bright colored stickers on DVDs so that parents can easily tell which ones are appropriate for kids and which ones are not. She said blue and purple stickers will mean the DVDs are good for kids, while red stickers mean the DVD is rated R. She also said that, as of right now, they do not have any books on their shelves that are deemed inappropriate.
Not only are the library buildings temporarily closed, their use of the online system called "Overdrive" has also been stopped. This is the only resource for people to access books and DVDs online through the Llano County Library. There is no set date for the library's online system to be reactivated, as library leaders say they are looking into other options.
The Llano County Commission approved the suspension of the use of Overdrive and the temporary closure for book reviews and labeling at a meeting on Dec. 13.
Llano County Commissioner Mike Sandoval told KVUE that the County has been paying about $3,000 per year for Overdrive. He said that since it has been in use the past seven years or so, library leaders told him that it has been used by 700 people.
More changes are expected to come for the Llano County Library. Commissioner Sandoval told KVUE they are creating an advisory board that will look over the county library and the online library system, in order to figure out best steps moving forward. The advisory board will consist of 13 people appointed by county commissioners and Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham.
Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham reportedly said that the County owes it to all parents "regardless if it's a school library or a public library, to make sure that material is not inappropriate for children."
This move by Llano County is just the latest in a string of actions across Texas related to books meant for children. In October, State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) launched an investigation into Texas school districts over whether any books on a list of 850 titles were in school libraries and classrooms. He also began asking districts if they had those books on their shelves.
In response to Krause’s inquiry, Gov. Greg Abbott called on Texas education leaders to investigate the availability of books with "pornography or other inappropriate content" in school libraries.
Since then, school districts across Texas have launched reviews of the books in their classrooms and libraries. Some local districts even had federal funding withheld over reading material available to students.
The Llano County Library System will reopen on Monday, Dec. 27. The next time the Llano County Commission is expected to discuss the new library advisory board is on Monday, Jan. 10.
The Tribune reports that local public libraries are also fielding an increase of book challenges from local residents – so much so that the Texas Library Association (TLA) has set up a "peer counseling" helpline for librarians to get support from others more familiar with book challenges.
"A library may get one or two [book challenges] in two years, or some librarians have never had challenges," Wendy Woodland, the TLA's director of advocacy and communication, told the Tribune "So this is very rare and very unusual and different from the way challenges have been brought forth in the past."
According to the Tribune, local public libraries are not regulated by the State but are instead usually part of a County or City budget funded by local taxpayers. Rules for public libraries, including complaints about content, are therefore determined at the local level.
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