Llano County residents sue over book bans

What rights do citizens have to access information at their public libraries? That's the question at the center of a case in federal court in Austin.

Llano County residents are suing local government and library officials claiming they removed books that they didn't agree with.

The residents argue the right to publish and receive ideas, even those that some find offensive, is enshrined in our Constitution.

"The law is not exactly clear where a library's discretion to add and remove books begins and ends. And it's also not very clear on the scope of citizens' rights to receive information, you know, certain books," University of Texas School of Law professor Steven Collis said.


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Llano County residents are suing, demanding books that they say were banned because officials didn't agree with their content be returned to the shelves.

Officials argue they were removed for other reasons.

At a hearing on Oct. 31, the prosecution presented several examples of books that were not targeted for removal, yet were worn, outdated, or generated little interest, arguing the only reason the books were removed is because a woman named Bonnie Wallace, who now sits on the library's new advisory board, sent a list of books she labeled as "pornographic filth" to County Judge Ron Cunningham.

Wallace suggested the books be moved to the library's adult section writing, "It is the only way that I can think of to prohibit future censorship of books I do agree with, mainly the bible if more radicals come to town and want to use the fact that we censored books against us."

Residents claim, "The censorship that defendants have imposed on Llano County public libraries is offensive to the First Amendment and strikes at the core of democracy."

UT law professor Steven Collis, who heads the Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center, says it's not that straightforward.

"I do think there's a question of what is just the best practice that's most consistent with our First Amendment tradition, and that is to push for more books, ones with competing ideas rather than trying to remove books with which people disagree."

Next, both sides will submit written arguments.