speaking out

Speaking Out Against Censorship & Speaking Up for Myself

On Tuesday, July 19, 2022, I spoke publicly at the Livingston Parish Public Library Board of Control Meeting as a resident of my community. You can read the news articles below to see the aftermath of that speech on censorship and the defamation of my character. Thank you to the hundreds of organizations, librarians, educators, friends, and family who have reached out in support. I truly appreciate you!

I am the founder and Executive Director of the Livingston Parish Library Alliance and proud co-founding member of Louisiana Citizens Against Censorship. We are dedicated grassroots organizations committed to fighting against censorship efforts in Louisiana.

In the News

My Episode on the New York Times First Person Podcast

NY Times First Person Podcast: A Small Town Librarian Spoke Against Censorship....

NBC News:  In Rare Move, School Librarian Fights Back In Court Against Conservative Activists

Coda.Story: America's Culture Warriors Are Going After Librarians

Chicago Sun-Times:  Silent Censorship for Books is An Attack on Knowledge and Open Discourse

School Library Journal: School Librarian  of Year Amanda Jones Fights Back Against Online Attacks

CNN: School Just Started but the Debate Surrounding Gender and Race in Classrooms is Already At a Fever Pitch

Education Week: A School Librarian Pushes Back on Censorship and Gets Death Threats and Online Harassment

NPR: Local Libraries Have Become A Major Political and Cultural Battleground

USA Today: Movement to Ban Books in Schools Brings Vitriol to Librarians

Book Riot: Louisiana Librarian of the Year Seeking Legal Action After Slander Campaign

School Library Journal: Get Up, Stand Up: Taking the Fight to Abusers

Insider: Louisiana Teacher Sues  Conservative Group

Huffington Post: 2 Men Targeted  A School Librarian Who Spoke Out  Against Censorship. They Aren't Facing Any Consequences

The Advocate: Lafayette Conservative Group Sued by Livingston Librarian

Louisiana Voice: Lafayette Groups Sinks to All-Time Low In Its Defamatory Attacks on Librarians

Louisiana Illuminator: Livingston Library Board Member's Inappropriate  Book List Draws Local Opposition

The AdvocateLGBTQ+ Books at Livingston Parish Libraries Spark  Heated Debate About Restrictions and Bans

The Advocate: Our Views--The Values of Openness and Civility Should Be Championed by Libraries Across Louisiana

Louisiana Voice: Livingston Parish Librarian Regroups, Vows to Continue Her Legal Battle

The Advocate: Librarian Asks Court to Reconsider Defamation Lawsuit

The Hill: Louisiana AG's Bid for Governor Sparks Huge Concern--The President of LASL Worries The AG Could Push Such Policies

VICE: LA Launches Tipline to Accuse Librarians of Sexualising Children

KNOE News: Louisiana AG Creates Online Portal to Report Books

Publishers Weekly: People of the Year - The Defenders

Education Week: Educators' Opposition to Censorship Comes at A Big Personal Cost

Los Angeles Times: School Librarians Called Arm of Satan in Book Banning Wars

Chalkbeat: Book Bans May Have Chilling Effect on LGBTQ+ Book

Library Journal: Louisiana Attorney General Sets Up "Tip Line" to Challenge Library Books

PBS News Hour: As LGBTQ Book Challenges Rise, Some Louisiana Librarians are Scared to Go to Work

Washington Post: Culture War in the Stacks - Librarians Marshal Against Rising Book Bans

Antigravity: Think of the Children! How Book Bans are Being to Concoct the Latest Moral Panic

The Advocate: School Librarian in Livingston Book Debate Wins National Intellectual Freedom Award

Independent (UK): The School Librarian in the Middle of Louisiana's War on Libraries

American Library Association: Amanda Jones is the 2023 Paul Howard Award for Courage Recepient

BR Proud: Debate Abrubtly Cut Off During Hearing for Controversial Library Bill

Education Week: Book Ban Debates Prompt Bomb Threats Against Schools

American Library Association: Amanda Jones Receives AASL Intellectual Freedom Award

School Library Journal: Stress Tested: These School Librarians Hit the Breaking Point. Here's How they Moved On

London Review of Books: Freedom to Read

American Library Association: The State of America's Libraries Report 2023

Louisiana Radio Network: Bill Restricting What Minors Can View At Public Libraries Moves Closer to Final Passage

MSN/Associated Press: Bill to restrict youth access to 'sexually explicit' public library books advances in Louisiana

Youth Today:US book ban push draws students, parents and librarians into national fight

Fox 8 News: LA Bill Restricting Library Materials For Minors Closer to Becoming Law

Publishers Weekly: U.S. Book Show 2023: Libraries Confront Post-Pandemic Challenges

Publishers Weekly: Book Deals - Librarian Checks in with Bloomsbury

American Library Association: Intellectual Freedom Round Table Announces 2023 John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award

Der Spiegel: What Will Happen in the USA if Donald Trump Becomes President Again

NPR's Here & Now Podcast: One School Librarian Spoke Out About Censorship

Next Avenue: What It's Like to Be a Librarian in the Age of Book Bans

SLJ: Fed Up and Filing Suit for Intellectual Freedom

SLJ: School Librarian Amanda Jones Files First Brief in Appeal of Defamation Case

NPR's Consider This: The Battle Over Book Bans Takes A Toll On Librarians and Comes at a Financial Cost

LitHub: School Librarian Memoirs May Just Be the Next Big Thing

NPR: The Plot Thickens--The Battle Over Books Comes at a Cost

American Libraries: How We Fight Back

NPR: Rising Book Challenges Are Also Targeting Public Libraries

School Library Journal: Outraged at Scholastic's Option to Opt In-Or Out--Of Diverse Books, Librarians Seek Book Fair Alternatives

New Hampshire Gazette: ChalkTalk-Fighting for Our Libraries

Louisiana Voice: Oprah Gives Livingston Parish School Librarian a Shoutout At National Book Awards

School Library Journal: First Time for Everything Wins, Oprah Shares the Story of 2021 SLJ SLOY

To kick off National Banned Books Week, a time when we celebrate the freedom to read, I joined @SourcebooksKids and Raj Haldar in a read-aloud of his new children’s book, THIS BOOK IS BANNED. Together, we are helping kids (and adults!) better understand the absurdity and danger of book bans. #bannedbooksweek #bannedbooks #thisbookisbanned 

July 19th public library board meeting

 Below is a copy of the speech I read word-for-word. I also have an audio recording of that meeting to back up the fact that this was my exact speech. Since that meeting, I have been harassed and defamed online and am seeking legal action. I will keep you updated as much as legally possible on this journey as things progress.  I will not sit by and let my good name be  tarnished by lies. Thank you to the hundreds of organizations, librarians, educators, friends, and family who have reached out in support.  I truly appreciate you!

My public comments on July 19, 2022
"My name is Amanda Jones. I am the 2021 School Library Journal National Librarian of the Year, an international speaker and advocate on behalf of libraries, and am President of the LA Association of School Librarians. I am here as a representative of that organization, but more importantly as a lifelong resident of Livingston Parish, parent of a child in this district, and taxpayer. I am here tonight because book content and book signage have been listed on tonight’s agenda. I hope that what I am about to say is not needed, and that my fear that a member of the board is trying to censor books and signage is unfounded. 

While book challenges are often done with the best intentions, and in the name of age appropriateness, they often target marginalized communities such as BIPOC and the LBGTQ community.  They also target books on sexual health and reproduction. Considering that Livingston Parish has the highest rate of children in foster care per capita in Louisiana, and that number has doubled over the past few years,  I find it ironic that any member of the community would want to limit access to any book on reproduction or relocate it away from the our children who need it the most. Once you start relocating and banning one topic, it becomes a slippery slope and where does it end? 

All members of our community deserve to be seen, have access to information, and see themselves, in our PUBLIC library collection. Censoring and relocating books and displays  is harmful to our community, but will be extremely harmful to our most vulnerable—our children.  According to the Trevor Project, “LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.” 

Libraries are for everyone. According to the American Library Association, of which I am a member of, 

LIBRARIES ARE A cornerstone of the community dedicated to serving the information needs of everyone. As such, they collect and make available a wide variety of information resources representing the range of human thought and experience. With such a broad spectrum of ideas and information available, it is inevitable that people will occasionally encounter resources they believe to be inappropriate for their family.

Just because you enter a library, it does not mean that you will not see something you don’t like. Libraries have diverse collections with resources from many points of view, and a library’s mission is to provide access to information for all users. All library users have the First Amendment right to borrow, read, view, and listen to library resources, according to the ALA. If an individual is concerned about a children’s or young adult’s resource or its location in the library, that individual has the right to go through the library’s reconsideration policy that is already in place. Each family has the right to determine which library resources are acceptable for its own children, but individuals must also realize that they must afford the same rights to all other parents. 

The citizens of our parish consist of tax payers who are white, Black, brown, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian—people from all backgrounds and walks of life, and no one portion of the community should dictate what the rest of the citizens have access to. Just because you don’t want to read it or see it, it doesn’t give you the right to deny others or demand its relocation.  If we remove or relocate books with LBGTQ or sexual health content, what message is that sending to our community members?  Why is your belief system any more important than others’? What will be next if you accomplish your mission? Parents have a personal responsibility to monitor their own child’s reading and nobody else’s. 

 The Livingston Parish Library Director Giovanni Tairov has accomplished wonders for our public library and made it into an award-winning system. There’s a reason the Louisiana Library Association named him the 2019 Public Library Director of the Year. Trust his judgment and those of the other dedicated Livingston Parish Library employees. There is a solid collection development policy in place.  Nobody is putting pornography in children’s sections of the library. Stop that false narrative. The librarians over the collection have library science degrees and use professional reviews, which list ages of relevancy and age appropriateness, before deciding where to place them in the library. There is already a book challenge process if a community member does not like a particular book or location of a book in the library. As board members, I would hope you already know that.

To board member Erin Sandefur who placed this item on the agenda, I will say this—You once posted on social media that there are folks who do not agree with you and that we can be one of your greatest teachers. That is an admirable statement. I would love to teach you about how harmful censorship, book policing, and agenda items like these affect our youth and historically marginalized community members.

To the entire board, I will say this: I grew up in this parish being taught that God is love. What I’ve come to realize is that what many people mean is that God is love only if you have the same religious and political beliefs as them. I have lived in our parish for 44 years. I am a mother of a child in our school system.  I have been a LPL card holder since 1983.  I have watched our public library grow to be one of our parish’s biggest assets—something we can be proud of.  I will remind board members that regardless of your own beliefs on the topic of book content and location, to think about this—no one on the right side of history has ever been on the side of censorship and hiding books. In the words of author Stephen Chbosky: “Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.” Hate and fear disguised as moral outrage have no place in Livingston Parish. 

Thank you for allowing me to speak tonight."