Librarian and Anti-Censorship Activist Amanda Jones Tells Her Story

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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.

In summer 2022, Louisiana school librarian Amanda Jones stood up at the Livingston Parish Public Library board meeting and spoke out against proposed book bans. Her speech, which can be read in full here, talked about the role of the library for the community and wove in not only her knowledge as a librarian but as a long-time community member. The ensuing hours and days involved her image and speech being blasted across local right-wing groups, including claims that she advocated for giving children pornography and teaching 6-year-olds about anal sex.

Jones responded by filing a defamation lawsuit.

Though the initial lawsuit was dismissed, Jones and her lawyer appealed the decision in September 2023. If she wins this appeal, she will be able to bring her suit to trial. The decision could come at any time.

“I have spent tens of thousands of dollars and we are nowhere near finished. It’s no wonder more people do not fight back,” explained Jones.

Jones did not stop her anti-censorship work with the speech or with the lawsuit. Indeed, if anything, this moment was one that catalyzed her into taking her fight even broader. Without question, Jones is now among the most outspoken and well-known anti-censorship and anti-book ban advocates doing the work right now.

Among her achievements over the last year include creating the Livingston Parish Library Alliance; cofounding the Louisiana Citizens Against Censorship; lobbying in the state of Louisiana against censorship bills and killing two anti-library bills; speaking at over 20 conferences and webinars to help librarians in their own advocacy and intellectual freedom work; being honored with the 2023 AASL Intellectual Freedom Award, ALA’s Paul Howard Award for Courage, the Louisiana Library Association Intellectual Freedom Award, and the ALA IFRT Paul Immroth Memorial Award; and if that weren’t enough, Jones has written a book about her experiences. That Librarian: The Fight Against Book Bans in America will be published on August 27, 2024.

book cover for Amanda Jones's THAT LIBRARIAN.

“I am very proud of [That Librarian] and it was cathartic to write,” says Jones. “It covers my ordeal of being defamed and targeted for speaking out in my own small community, draws the curtain back on some of the behind-the-scenes politics and dark money funding these extremists, and offers advice on how to conquer censorship attempts in your own communities. It is a cross between a memoir and manifesto.”

Jones keeps her eye on the pulse of censorship news across her home state as well as the country. Two stories of particular interest to her right now are playing out in Louisiana and in Kentucky. The St. Tammany Library Alliance recently saw book banners withdraw their 200 complaints, and Jones calls them a “force to be reckoned with.”

In Murfreesboro, Kentucky, the town’s recent—and since repealed—decency ordinance played a key role in the removal of several LGBTQ+ books from the Rutherford County Public Library. Jones had the opportunity to meet with the Rutherford County Library Alliance in November and hopes they’ll pursue litigation against the Rutherford County Library Board of Control for First and Fourteenth Amendment violations.

“I am also paying special attention to the lawsuit by the Missouri ACLU, MLA, and MASL in Missouri against their new book banning law that threatens librarians with jail time and $2,000 fines,” she added. “I’m hoping the law, which is vague and is causing soft censorship in school libraries, is declared unconstitutional.”

Jones is encouraged by the attention being paid both by professionals and average citizens to ongoing censorship. It’s been a long fight, but it is one anyone can join at their own level. It begins by staying abreast of developing stories, noticing trends, and showing up to support institutions like public libraries and schools.

Then, she says, look right in your own community to see where and how those things might be playing out.

“Be aware of local agenda items and speak out when you see lies being circulated around your own communities,” she said. “If you are afraid to speak out, at least attend the meetings. Those of us actively engaged need the support of others. Attending and applauding at the right moments can be just as important as publicly speaking. It shows strength in numbers.”

She also reminds library workers and educators to use their voices too. Now is not the time to be scared into silence nor complicity—and indeed, there are advocates out there, both near and far, who are dedicated to making sure you are safe and you’re seen as experts in your own job.

Moreover, this work is about ensuring that all the people in our communities are seen and valued.

“For the sake of our children and the future of our country, we cannot let them. Our silence would be our compliance and we cannot be complicit in the continued othering and marginalization of some of our most vulnerable community members.”

Even though the status of her appeal remains in the air, Jones knows that it is but one piece of the larger story of advocating for the intellectual freedom rights of all.

“Regardless of what happens in court, I have already won by standing up for myself and standing up for the rights of all readers to see themselves in the books on our library’s shelves. My hope is that it will inspire others to also take a stand for what is right.”

That Librarian: The Fight Against Book Banning in America is available for preorder and will be published on August 27.

that librarian book cover

About That Librarian

Part memoir, part manifesto, the inspiring story of a Louisiana librarian advocating for inclusivity on the front lines of our vicious culture wars.

One of the things small-town librarian Amanda Jones values most about books is how they can affirm a young person’s sense of self. So in 2022, when she caught wind of a local public hearing that would discuss “book content,” she knew what was at stake. Schools and libraries nationwide have been bombarded by demands for books with LGBTQ+ references, discussions of racism, and more to be purged from the shelves. Amanda would be damned if her community were to ban stories representing minority groups. She spoke out that night at the meeting. Days later, she woke up to a nightmare that is still ongoing.

Amanda Jones has been called a groomer, a pedo, and a porn pusher; she has faced death threats and attacks from strangers and friends alike. Her decision to support a collection of books with diverse perspectives made her a target for extremists using book banning campaigns funded by dark money organizations and advanced by hard-right politicians in a crusade to make America more white, straight, and Christian. But Amanda Jones wouldn’t give up without a fight: she sued her harassers for defamation and urged others to join her in the resistance.

Mapping the book banning crisis occurring all across the nation, That Librarian draws the battle lines in the war against equity and inclusion, calling book lovers everywhere to rise in defense of our readers.

amanda jones headshot

About Amanda Jones

Amanda Jones is a 23-year educator and school librarian from Louisiana. She is the 2021 School Library Journal Librarian of the Year, a 2021 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and the 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year. She serves as the Louisiana Library Association’s Councilor to the ALA, is the current Past President of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, and is Assistant Director for Louisiana Citizens Against Censorship. Follow her fight for intellectual freedom at librarianjones.com.

Social Media: Twitter/X @abmack33

Website: https://librarianjones.com/