Bill to End Book Bans on Table in Minnesota

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Given the slate of progressive policies passed in Minnesota last legislative session, it should come as little surprise that the state has introduced its own anti-book ban bill this year. Minnesota now joins OregonVirginiaWashingtonNew JerseyKansasColoradoNew Mexico, Utah, and Massachusetts, in attempting to define the parameters around book banning. The bill was introduced by Representative Laurie Pryor.

House File 3782 makes changes to the state education code which would make banning books based on ideological or content objection in public schools and libraries illegal. Library and school administration and boards would not have book removal within their purview. The language in the bill makes clear that removal of material is not the only unallowable action. These same groups would not be allowed to restrict age-appropriate materials, either.

Librarians who are licensed with the state to work in the schools, as well as those with the proper education credentials, would be the only ones allowed to manage the collection. Decisions made about the inclusion or exclusion of titles would need to be made in accordance with the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights. It is worth noting that this legislation would help emphasize the importance of librarians and their professional knowledge, experience, education, and expertise.

“[The bill’s goals] would be the qualified librarians who have training and who are responsible and obligated to look at the community’s needs,” said Shana Morse, the state Education Department’s assistant director of government relations. “That rests in the hands of the professionals who have been trained to do that evaluation.”

The language in the bill directly addresses the rhetoric surrounding book bans coming from supporters of so-called book removal. “Parental rights” are not undermined by leaving the work of professional library workers to them.

From HF 3782:

Subd. 3. 

Collection management. 

A governing body under subdivision 1, or any other public body with personnel authority for a library, may not discriminate against or discipline
a librarian or other professional overseeing a library collection under subdivision 2 based solely on their collection management decisions.

Subd. 4. 

Library content. 

This section does not limit any authority of a librarian or other professional overseeing a library collection under subdivision 2 authority to decline
to purchase, lend, shelve, or to remove or restrict access to books or other materials as part of regular collection development practice.

Subd. 5. 

Other law. 

Nothing in this section impairs or limits the rights of a parent, guardian, or adult student to request a content challenge under section 120B.20.

Other legislators tied to the bill are Cheryl Youakim, Frank Hornstein, and Josiah Hill.

The American Library Association recorded 12 attempts to restrict access to books in Minnesota between January and August 2023 alone, with 34 book titles challenged. This placed the state among the middle for censorship attempts in this time frame. PEN America recorded 1 book ban in school districts during the 2022-2023 school year–but that number does not reflect what has been happening in the state in the 2023-2024 school year. Among the public libraries and school districts who experienced bans and/or are currently under challenges during this wave of censorship include Great River Regional Library, Brainerd Public Schools, Bloomington Public Schools, Carver County Library, Alexandria Public Schools, Hastings Public Schools, Wayzata Public Schools, Sartell-St Stevens School District, Waseca-Le Sueur Schools, and Osseo Area Schools.  

HF 3782 was heard in the House Education committee on February 28, where Hill added his name as a cosponsor. If you’re a Minnesota resident, take ten minutes to write your House representative in support of the bill.

As an update on anti-book ban bill statuses, those in Colorado and New Mexico have died, but progress has been made on the bills in Oregon and Washington.