Inspiring Intellectual Freedom without adding fuel to the book ban fire

“But I know it when I see it.”

This phrase is famous and is a quote by United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. Stewart gave an opinion on an obscenity case in the 1964 Jacobellis v. Ohio. In the 1973 Miller v. California case, Chief Justice Warren Burger created guidelines that came to be known as The Miller Test. This test, though still subjective, provides us with much more guidance than mere intuition.

I am mentioning this nearly fifty-year-old case because the Legislator in my state includes the word “school libraries” in House Bill 1944.

SUMMARY OF BILL: Prohibits local education agencies (LEA) or public schools from making obscene materials or materials harmful to minors available to students in the school libraries controlled by the LEA or public school. Excludes LEAs, public schools, and employees, and private contractors of LEAs or public schools from the exception to the offense of obscenity if the LEA, public school, employee, or private contractor possesses obscene material that is harmful to minors on public school premises.

Who decides if a book is obscene and harmful to minors?

This question is a critical point. [Especially when the punishment can include a $50,000 fine.] Is it the country music artist who speaks with the governor? Or will it be the pastor who hosts a book burning? Currently, the school boards have removed the books Maus and Walk Two Moons from the curriculum in Tennessee counties. School boards are receiving reconsideration requests repeatedly and many times from people who are not even parents of students at the schools in question.

What can we do?

This type of book banning may have already hit your state or could be on its way. Therefore, it is essential to watch your state library  association and state school library association updates. If bills that threaten intellectual freedom come up, write your representatives. Another good idea is to attend state legislative days.

But I believe the best way to succeed is to develop parents as allies. Growing community at the local level can be a strong defense, and those stakeholders will help you in the struggle against outside groups. Finally, for help from AASL and ALA read The American Library Association opposes widespread efforts to censor books in U.S. schools and libraries.


Author: Hannah Byrd Little

I’m a dedicated Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle, leveraging my background in higher education libraries to guide students through the crucial transition from school to college and beyond.

I am honored to have served as the AASL Chair for the Independent School Section in 2023 and am excited to begin my upcoming role as Director-At-Large for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) later this year, following my previous experience as a Member Guide in the AASL Emerging Leaders program. These appointments reflect my commitment to advancing library education and professional development on a national scale.

With experience in state-level leadership through the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL), including serving as TASL President in 2012, I bring a wealth of knowledge to my role. My educational background includes certifications as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, a Bachelor of Science in Communications (Advertising & Public Relations), a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies (Education & Information Systems), and a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Categories: Collection Development, Intellectual Freedom, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.