Censorship in Texas: #FReadom Campaign Inception, Reflection, & Highlights

October 26, 2021: Ten Days before Hashtag Takeover Day

Nancy Jo: On October 26, 2021, the Texas Tribune broke the story of State Representative Matt Krause, a candidate for state attorney general, who asked multiple school superintendents across the state to confirm by letter whether any books on a list of about 850 titles are in school libraries and classrooms. 

After looking at the list of books, I instantly felt my heart sink as I recognized many important and popular books that readers enjoy for pleasure reading and as information sources that can be checked out from our school library. Why were these books being targeted? (On November 5, 2021, Book Riot released an excellent analysis of the 850 books on Krause’s list.)

After seeing tweets about this by Becky Calzada, Carolyn Foote, Mary Woodard (and one additional unnamed person), and I reached out through a Twitter direct message and started a group chat. We were shocked and appalled at what we saw as a political stunt and were concerned about school districts turning over this data to someone who would use it for his campaign and other political reasons. We asked each other what can we do?

Our small group decided to schedule a video call to discuss a plan. Initially, we shared our frustrations, concerns, and questions. We shared news information, tweets, and questions in an effort to better understand the situation. It was a very long week of discussions.

October 30, 2021: Five Days before Hashtag Takeover Day

Becky: I was scrolling through Twitter on a Saturday morning and noticed someone shared a favorite book on the #txlege hashtag. I then started wondering what if librarians and readers shared their favorite books on the #txlege hashtag to send a message about the positive impact books can have on readers? I sent a text to my friend and colleague, Carolyn Foote, and she loved the idea. She and I immediately started thinking through and processing how we would go about launching this.

Carolyn and I wrote up some sample information to share and considered a date. We wanted to act quickly, but also be mindful of the upcoming election on November 2 , allowing enough time to send out information to librarians,  all while keeping this secret so that there was an element of surprise. We chose Thursday, November 4, 2021, as the day to launch the #txlege #FReadom hashtag takeover. We also decided to take the plan back to our group to get some feedback and adjust as needed.

November 1, 2021:  Three Days before Hashtag Takeover Day

Becky: Carolyn Foote and I chatted in the morning; since she’s recently retired, she took on the task of communicating with the Texas Library Association (TLA) to share our plan and ask about using the member community forum to share information about our plans. Due to having a full-time job and not wanting to mix these activities while I was on duty, Carolyn sent out the messages to school librarians. When I got off work, I shared with my PLN including authors, librarians across the country, as well as sharing with organizations. 

It was also at this time that Nancy Jo, Mary Woodard, and our unnamed colleague assisted in sharing the takeover information with their PLN and friends. To ensure that we didn’t duplicate efforts, we kept a list of anyone we shared this information with. Many happily agreed and were eager to participate. We had a few authors decline due to writing deadlines but shared how happy they were to know this was going to occur.

Message we sent folx:

Hello :)  A group of Texas librarians are organizing a twitter hashtag takeover for Thursday for the Txlege hashtag if you want to join to highlight positive books. All the instructions are here at the bitly. It’s a SECRET until Thursday, so share with people who might be interested but remind them to keep it secret.  Families, authors, librarians, teens, etc. can join. https://bit.ly/FReadom.

Nancy Jo: Due to some misinformation being posted to social media about me in the spring and this fall by members of my local community and attacks on my personhood at a school board meeting this last June and on social media, I am trying to minimize my social media presence and wasn’t sure I had the bandwidth to help a ton as Carolyn and Becky were organizing the hashtag takeover. However, I still wanted to help and since I was off November 1 and 2 and in San Antonio to support my kid and their high school band competing at the state competition, I helped by messaging people behind the scenes. 

November 2, 2021: Two Days before Hashtag Takeover Day

Becky: I received a text from Carolyn Foote at 10:30 a.m.; she shared she felt like the timing was going to be perfect on the #txlege #FReadom hashtag takeover. She shared she was going to tip off the media at 9:00. 

November 4, 2021:  Hashtag Takeover Day

Becky’s New Kid Tweet

Becky: 5:30 a.m.: I checked the #txlege hashtag and noticed one tweet. It was a start but I really wasn’t sure what would happen. I pre-scheduled tweets from my account for 6:00 a.m., 6:30 a.m., 7:00 a.m., 7:30 a.m., and 7:55 a.m. Now, it was just stepping back and watching what happened. I was nervously excited and anxious to see the day unfold but also trying hard to focus at work. 

I kept in touch with Carolyn, Nancy Jo, and others throughout the day. Because the bulk of us were at work and wanted to separate work from this event, Carolyn took the lead on retweeting and sharing the message while on vacation in California.

We never were quite sure how this might turn out but we knew that at a minimum, our actions would give people hope, something that was sorely needed. Seeing the #FReadom and #txlege hashtag rise to sixth and seventh trending topic on Twitter far exceeded our expectations and brought some much-needed joy that had been missing due to the recent inquiries by our state legislators. And we heard this same excitement from many librarians in our state and beyond. 

Nancy Jo: This was a curriculum work day for me, so I used my lunch to tweet and then followed the hashtags and all the tweets after work that day, adding my own about the books that I wanted to celebrate. I was uplifted by the hundreds of tweets in my feed about books that had touched the reading lives and impacted the people tweeting. It was exactly what I needed to bolster my resolve to continue to fight for the right to access information for all students. It was such an important celebration of books and reading! I was so energized I couldn’t fall asleep until around 11:30. At that time there were more than 13,000 tweets to #FReadom. 

Author: Becky Calzada and Nancy Jo Lambert

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Intellectual Freedom

Tags: , , ,

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