A school librarians hands a book to a child

Librarians Deserve Extra Love This National School Librarian Day

April 4 is National School Librarian Day, a day established to celebrate and acknowledge the phenomenal work that school librarians do. With how much more difficult book bans have made school librarians’ jobs, they deserve extra appreciation today and every day.

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Book bans have been sweeping across the United States at unprecedented rates recently as part of a growing censorship movement by Republican conservatives. Meanwhile, the very first target for the book-banning movement was school libraries. Conservative school board members and parents across the country have tried to raise hysteria and support for censorship by claiming children are being exposed to pornography and obscene material through books.

We have been seeing a push in conservative states for legislation that will criminalize librarians doing their jobs. States like Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Indiana have already passed such laws, which stipulate school librarians can face criminal charges, imprisonment, and hefty fines if they provide “harmful” books to children. However, since all of these states purposefully leave the definition of “pornographic,” “sexually explicit,” or “obscene” vague, and conservatives often lie that any book they dislike is “pornography,” many school librarians live in fear of criminal prosecution despite committing no crimes other than helping foster a love of reading in children.

A glimpse of what school librarians are facing across the country

Over the past few years, stories have arisen, giving a small glimpse into how librarians’ jobs have changed due to attacks from far-right book banners. If one thinks it’s an exaggeration that librarians can be arrested for doing their job, there have already been incidents that sparked police involvement. In Florida, a Moms for Liberty member went to the police station to report a “felony” after she coerced a student into checking out a certain book at a school library. In Great Barrington, Massachusetts, an anonymous complaint about a book led to a police officer entering and searching a school classroom as if he were searching for or trying to disarm an active threat.

Given issues of police brutality, it is very alarming that conservatives’ first move is often running to the police and claiming a crime is being committed if a child checks out a book in a school library.

Not only do school librarians face the threat of arrest and criminal charges, but they also face threats of violence from right-wing extremists. School districts in Texas and Virginia reported receiving numerous death threats after a parent lied about the book Lawn Boy containing pedophilia. In Tusla, Oklahoma, an elementary school received multiple bomb threats because the school librarian, Kirby Mackenzie, made a TikTok holding a pile of books and revealing she would continue pushing her “woke agenda” in schools. Of course, in the comments, she clarified that her “woke agenda,” according to conservatives, is teaching children to love reading.

Bomb threats against librarians and libraries have been on the rise across the whole country, showing that librarians don’t only have to fear for their lives but sometimes even for the lives of the children they care so much for. Even when librarians aren’t facing death threats, potential criminal charges, and being falsely accused of being groomers and pedophiles, book banners have found other ways to make their lives harder.

Last year, a mom in Virginia proudly flaunted her label as a “serial book banner,” revealing that she spends all day searching for books that might be problematic on the internet and filing dozens and dozens of complaints in her school district. Within a short period of time, she filed 73 challenges in her school district, which required 11 school librarians to work about 40 hours of overtime per week to deal with. Although librarians are frequently falsely accused of giving obscene materials to children, the fact is they are cautious about the content they give out, which is why they have very long processes to allow for and take seriously every complaint and challenge.

Sadly, conservatives have chosen to abuse librarians’ diligence, forcing them to spend all their labor, resources, and finances sifting through endless book complaints. In St Tammany Parish, Louisiana, it was discovered that 15 people filed 215 complaints, which wasted $72,000 of library funds and would take years to get through.

How to celebrate National School Librarian Day

It’s important to remember that the above is just a tiny snapshot of what librarians face. Recorded incidents are too numerous to name, and countless more incidents have likely gone unreported. Despite the rising struggles and an increasingly hostile and even dangerous environment, school librarians have continued working. They have shouldered hundreds of hours of overtime, incessant harassment, threats of violence, and potential criminal charges to make a difference in kids’ lives.

Their job has always been underappreciated, as there’s no way of knowing how many lives school librarians have quietly saved by giving a child access to resources that they desperately needed. How many people remember the school library as their one safe place where they could escape into the world of literature? Countless professionals can probably trace back their passion and discovery of their talents to the walls of a school library.

Today is a reminder of how important school librarians are. With their profession under attack, it’s especially important that we use today to acknowledge the amazing work school librarians do and to raise awareness for how their jobs are irreplaceable despite being threatened. Please take the time to find a way to thank librarians and to share the stories and voices of any librarian using today to speak out about their jobs and the current book-banning climate. Also, use today as a reminder to show appreciation and respect to librarians whenever you have the opportunity.

(featured image: SDI Productions / Getty)


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Author
Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.