News - Advocacy
Friday, November 24, 2023 12:00 AM

Freedom to Read Legislation Coming in January

With the help of many members, leaders and legislators, MLA helped draft a simple, direct piece of legislation on the Freedom to Read. We know it may not stop every challenge, but we hope it will stop the majority of those who target the books and materials so often at the top of the “most banned books” list.

Utilizing the standard “Request for Reconsideration” process used by most public libraries, the proposed bill has incorporated a number of simple, yet distinct ideas:

1) The proposed bill states explicitly that the public library director shall have final responsibility on the selection of materials for inclusion or withdrawal in a public library’s collection. It also states that a library must have a policy in effect that complies with the act setting forth standards for selection of materials, standards for withdrawal of materials, a process for reconsideration, and other conditions, such as:

A) the reason or reasons for requesting reconsideration of the public library’s material. (Any reasons that are not in compliance with this act cannot be considered.)

B) that the requester has read the entire material before filling

C) that a request may only be made by a resident of the library’s legal service area or contracted service area

D) that a new request for reconsideration of the same material may not be submitted to the same public library for 365 days after the public library’s determination

2) The reason or basis for a request for reconsideration cannot be made based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, height, weight, familial status, or marital status of the author or that the subject matter, content or viewpoint of the material involves religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, height, weight, familial status, or marital status. The public library director has the discretion to determine if the reasons stated comply with this subsection.

3) A public library may not grant a request for reconsideration based on the subject matter, content, or viewpoint of material, unless the material has been adjudicated to be obscene or otherwise unprotected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution or by Article 1, Section 5 of Const 1963, as determined by a court of competent jurisdiction over the community in which the library serves.

4) The Michigan Attorney General may, on behalf of the Library of Michigan, compel the public library to adopt a policy and the attorney general, a resident of the public library’s legal service area or public library’s contracted service area may commence a civil action including a temporary or permanent injunction to prevent the public library from unlawful removal of material or to compel the public library to return material to the collection that are removed in violation of this act.

We must not remain silent; we must protect the right to read for all Michiganders; we must defend books and writers; we must support diverse literature; we must safeguard the freedom to express our opinions and to access the opinions, ideas, and stories of others; and finally, we must push back and use our voices against extremist rhetoric of intolerance, exclusion and censorship. This legislation will help make that happen. Stay tuned for more updates on the introduction of this important legislation when legislators return to Lansing in early 2024.

Click here to view the recording of our November Advocacy Hour: Michigan Freedom to Read Act. MLA Board President Dillon Geshel, Advocacy Committee Chair Jenny Marr, and Intellectual Freedom Task Force Chair Juliane Morian, were joined by MLA’s Lobbyist Bob DeVries, Rep. Veronica Paiz, and Rep. Carol Glanville as we shared the proposed legislation and discussed the actions librarians, library workers, and advocates can take to protect intellectual freedom and the right to read to get this legislation passed.


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