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Montana ACLU files records request regarding library board

| February 15, 2022 7:00 AM

The ACLU of Montana has filed a public records request it says is related to recent efforts by ImagineIF Library Board trustees to remove books from library shelves.

The request is an effort to obtain information related to trustee efforts to change library policy to allow for easier removal of certain books when board members disagree with views of the books, the nonprofit civil rights organization notes.

The ACLU of Montana is concerned that these policy changes may be intended to give the board greater latitude in ensuring that only materials that align with the personal viewpoints of the board ever reach library shelves, the group noted in a release.

The ImagineIF board on Jan. 13 voted to keep one book being challenged as part of its collection, but voted to “indefinitely postpone” a decision on a second book until the library could change its policies in a way that would likely allow for the removal of the book.

“We at the ACLU of Montana are committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of all Montanans. That includes the fair and open access to information that is at the heart of the public library system,” said Akilah Lane ACLU of Montana Staff Attorney, in a release. “Censorship is the antithesis of what a library is about. We will continue to investigate this matter to ensure that libraries in Montana remain unabridged sources for all people to seek information free from political and viewpoint biases.”

The ImagineIF board kept “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, but delayed a decision on “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe with some trustees saying they wanted to change the policy to allow for removal of the book. Both books have faced challenges around the country.

ACLU of Montana says it’s also concerned that efforts to ban such books are part of a “larger, national effort to restrict access to books and information from libraries, and specifically books focused on issues faced by marginalized communities.”

The records requested include documents and communications of the ImagineIF Board of Trustees related to trustee policy committee meetings regarding the consideration of removal of books or materials from the library and changes to policies related to the removal of books or materials from the library.

The full request by the ACLU of Montana can be viewed online at www.aclumontana.org/en/news/aclu-montana-investigates-book-challenge-imagineif-libraries