Texas librarians face harassment as they navigate book bans
Librarian Suzette Baker said she faced a hard choice last year when her boss asked her to hide a book on critical race theory behind the counter.
“OK, I’ll look into it,” Baker recalled telling her boss at the time.
But eventually, Baker — a librarian at the Llano County Public Library’s Kingsland Branch — decided to ignore the request. And she continued to vocally protest other decisions, like the ban on ordering new books. She spoke up, telling her supervisors that the library was facing a censorship attack.
By February, the pressure to keep new or donated books from the shelves increased, she said. After waiting weeks for a local library board to approve the books Baker wanted to add to her library, Baker’s boss would tell her that even donated books could not reach the shelves.
On March 9, Baker was fired for insubordination, creating a disturbance and failure to follow instructions.
“This change is inevitable and you are allowing your personal biases, opinions and preferences to unduly influence your actions and judgment,” her dismissal documents stated.
Baker’s experience represents one of many new conflicts facing Texas librarians as book challenges continue to multiply. Many feel left out of decisions on banning books while also facing increased scrutiny from politicians, parents, and county and school district staff. Some have already quit, and others are considering it.
For those librarians working at schools and at public libraries, the pressure to keep some challenged books off the shelves is growing. And some Texas librarians say the insults and threats through social media and the added pressure from supervisors to remove books are taking a toll on the profession.
“It’s the job I’ve always wanted my entire life,” Baker said. “But then it started getting to be a place where it was hostile.”
The Llano County Commissioner’s Court and the county judge, who oversaw some library services and suspended new library book purchases in November, declined to comment, as did the library system’s director, Amber Milum.
Now that Baker is no longer working at the library, she said she worries for the future of Llano County’s library system.