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Former Llano County librarian files lawsuit over termination after book ban controversy

Former Kingsland librarian Suzette Baker has filed a lawsuit against Llano County over her employment termination in 2022. Baker was fired after she refused to remove books deemed as “pornographic” in her library.

The books were centered around race, sexuality and identity, which was clear discrimination and censorship, said Baker.

“You don’t have to like the books in the library. I don’t like some of the books in the library. I wouldn’t take them off the shelves though because it’s censorship,” she said.

Texas State Rep. Matt Krause sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency with a list of 850 books that should be banned. Soon after, members of the Llano County Library Advisory Board identified titles that were in the so-called “Krause list.”

Baker was appointed head librarian in 2021. After she objected to removing the books, she was fired for “allowing personal opinions to interfere with job duties and procedures,” among other reasons listed in the lawsuit.

Baker worked at Kingsland Library a few years prior in 2016. She never anticipated a book ban attempt would happen in her city.

Iris Halpern, an attorney who represents Baker, said that reading is a gateway to empathy, which she believed is lacking in government institutions.

“The people who are most attempting to advocate for censorship probably could use a little bit more empathy. They’re obviously targeting minority populations that have been historically, disenfranchised and estranged from our government institutions as political ploys to gain power,” she said.

Baker believed a library should reflect the people in its community, and a ban on the selected books would send a message that some demographics weren’t welcome. She noted that an LGBTQ+ group would hold meetings at the library prior to the controversy.

“They met once a month. There are gay people in Llano. There are Black people in Llano. There are Hispanic people. I know we had one woman who came into our library. She’s from Mexico. She taught herself to read using our library,” Baker said.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday. Baker wanted to send a message that censorship will not be tolerated in Llano County. As a former diesel mechanic in the military who raised her children on a low-income budget, Baker said libraries were crucial in her children’s upbringing.

Since her termination, Baker said her life has become more isolated.

“I now have a security system at my house. I have cameras outside, and, yeah, I don’t do a lot of public events because people know who I am,” she said.

Halpern was confident they will win this case, even if it takes a few years.

“Almost every single law or municipality that has banned books or states that have recently promulgated these laws, attempting to engage in widespread censorship. They’ve been struck down uniformly as unconstitutional,” she said.

Baker believes that libraries have always symbolized a public space that is welcoming of everyone, and she’s fighting for that to still be true.

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