The bill has not become law and must still be considered by the Illinois state Senate.
On March 22, 2023, the Illinois state House passed a bill that would prohibit public libraries and school libraries from banning books and other materials over partisan or doctrinal pressure.
House Bill 2789 was an effort by the Democratic Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who oversees grant programs for public and school libraries. The bill would require that in order to qualify for those state grants, libraries would have to adopt a written policy to prohibit book bans, or adopt the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights, which includes the statement that "(m)aterials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval."
The synopsis of HB 2789 states (emphasis, ours):
Provides that it is the policy of the State to encourage the improvement of free public libraries and to encourage cooperation among all types of libraries in promoting the sharing of library resources, including digital resources, and to encourage and protect the freedom of public libraries and library systems to acquire materials without external limitation and to be protected against attempts to ban, remove, or otherwise restrict access to books or other materials. Provides that the State Librarian shall prescribe rules concerning the development of a written policy declaring the inherent authority of the public library or library system to prohibit the practice of banning specific books or resources. Provides that, in order to be eligible for State grants, a public library or library system shall develop a written policy prohibiting the practice of banning books within the public library or library system.
The House approved this bill along partisan lines, with most Democrats voting in favor and Republicans against (Democrats control both the state House and the Senate). Many Republicans argued that this was an attack on local control. Republican Rep. Martin McLaughlin, for instance, said, "These people volunteer as nonpartisan elected local officials, and for the state to tell a local library board, 'listen to the professionals; follow the professionals' – I don't understand why we have local elections anymore if a bill like this passes."
After the vote, Giannoulias said in a statement: "Public and school libraries are facing unprecedented censorship of books and resources, not just in Illinois but throughout the nation. This important first-in-the-nation legislation combats book banning and upholds freedom of speech, which America has always stood for. I applaud the Illinois House of Representatives for passing this important measure and encourage the State Senate to do the same."
Democrats also pointed out that such book bans are primarily targeted toward marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ community. Democrat Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, the bill's main sponsor, shared how the high school board of her district voted to keep "Gender Queer: A Memoir" in libraries despite complaints from parents and members of the far-right Proud Boys group.
"Banning books is the sort of behavior that was once for good reason associated with the worst, most repressive and repugnant authoritarian regimes of the mid-20th century and before," Stava-Murray said during debate over the bill. "The fact that this is even up for discussion in America in the 21st century is disgusting."
The bill has not become law. It will now be sent to the state Senate for consideration. The first reading took place in the Senate on March 23, 2023. We will update this story when we hear more.