Llano County Public Librarian Fired for Not Banning Books Sues County, Library Commissioners

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.

For years, censorship issues have plagued the Llano County Public Library (TX). In late 2021, the Llano County Commissioners Court demanded that the public library thoroughly evaluate every book for children in the library. The six library workers were tasked with determining whether or not books were appropriate, and they were to decide whether certain books belonged in a “young adults plus” section. The library shut down for three days to do this, which included shutting down patron access to digital books. The commissioners chose this last action because of how time intensive it would be to evaluate each title.

These demands from the County emerged in the wake of State Representative Matt Kraus’s request that every school library go through its collection and see if any of the 850 books on his now-infamous list were in it. If so, the district needed to confirm with Kraus, putting a major target on their backs for further investigation by the state. The list included classics, but most focused on themes related to race and racism and queer identity.

In Llano County, a board member of the library emailed a county judge Kraus’s list–which had no legal sway what so ever. Emils acquired by Book Riot shows conversations where books were characterized as “pornographic filth” needing to be removed ASAP.

The judge then advised the board to remove “all books that depict any type of sexual activity or questionable nudity.”

The results of the three-day public library closure and evaluation was the removal of at least two books from shelves: In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak and It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris. It also led to the Commissioners Court, Cunningham and Commissioner Jerry Don Moss deciding to dissolve the county’s library advisory board. They appointed 12 new members, all of whom were in favor of banning materials across the public library system.

In response to escalating book bans across the country, state, and her own library, head librarian Suzette Baker put together a book display in March 2022 that highlighted books being targeted. Baker was asked by one of the board members to remove from the display books which were targeted by the commissioners in earlier emails. The librarian said no.

Then, Baker was fired.

“The books in my library in Kingsland were not taken off the shelves, we did not move them, I told my boss that was censorship,” Baker told local news, following her ousting.

In April 2022, a group of Llano County residents filed a lawsuit over violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights following the closure and book censorship. By April 2023, the judge ruled in favor of those residents, deeming the board’s demands for censorship a violation of their rights. In response, the library board debated shutting the entire library down, rather than returning the 12 books named in the lawsuit back to shelves. The county appealed the decision, and it remains in appeals court.

“This is not a communist nation,” Baker told the commissioners following the decision in that lawsuit, per the Austin American-Statesman. “This is not a Nazi nation. You do not get to pick our reading material. It is ours.”

Now Suzette Baker is filing a lawsuit over her wrongful termination against Llano County, Llano County Commissioners, Ron Cunningham (who sits on the Commission and is being sued in both his professional and personal capacity), Amber Milum (Director of the Llano County Library System), Jerry Don Mass, Bonnie Wallace, Rochelle Wells, Rhonda Schneider, and Gay Baskin. Wallace and Cunningham were engaged in conversations about the “pornographic filth” in obtained emails.

The complaint reads in part as follows:

In 2022, Plaintiff Barbara Suzette Baker worked as Head Librarian at the Kingsland Library in Kingsland, Texas. A life-long lover of books and ideas, she found herself the target of a burgeoning politicized movement seeking to ban books in libraries and schools, reflecting a disconcerting, anti-American, and unconstitutional nationwide trend. At the behest of, and colluding with, other public officials, Amber Milum, the Llano County Library System Director, ordered Ms. Baker to purge certain books, primarily those written by or thematically about racial minorities and LGBTQ+individuals, from the Kingland Library’s collection. When Ms. Baker refused, Defendant Milum terminated her for “insubordination,” “creating a disturbance,” “violation of policies,” “failure to follow instructions,” and –most ironically –for “allowing personal opinions to interfere with job duties and procedures.”


This is a direct evidence case.Defendants expressed clear animus towards protected groups and associated Ms. Baker with those groups and/or with advocacy and opposition against discrimination against those groups. Defendants suppressed Ms. Baker’s speech and association.And Defendants conspired to force Ms. Baker to deprive others of their fundamental rights. In their campaign of animosity and censorship, Defendants long-ago crossed the line. As a result, they have caused Ms. Baker significant injuries, as well as indelibly harming their constituents and community, all actions for which they must be held responsible and be subjected to accountability

Baker is represented by Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC and Edwards Law, who have become forerunners in the fight against First and Fourteenth Amendment violations against librarians. Mohamedbhai successfully oversaw Brooky Parks’s wrongful termination from High Plains Library District. The firm called her settlement groundbreaking and that it set an important legal precedent. They also represent Campbell County Public Library System’s former executive director Terri Lesley who was also terminated for not complying with discriminatory practices.

Baker’s lawsuit will take a while to move through the system, but given the precedent already set in similar discrimination lawsuits, the prospects look positive. It continues in the direction where we have and will continue to see this book ban wave go: the courts.

The full lawsuit can be viewed here.