A federal judge in Arkansas has temporarily blocked parts of Act 372 with a preliminary injunction. Act 372 was signed into law earlier this year by governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Federal judge Timothy L. Brooks wrote a 49 page opinion and order filled with several delightful and inspiring quotes.
“For more than a century, librarians have curated the collections of public libraries to serve diverse viewpoints, helped high school students with their term papers, made recommendations to book clubs, tracked down obscure books for those devoted to obscure pastimes, and mesmerized roomfuls of children with animated storytelling,” Brooks wrote. “So, the passage of Act 372 prompts a few simple, yet unanswered questions. For example: What has happened in Arkansas to cause its communities to lose faith and confidence in their local librarians? What is it that prompted the General Assembly’s newfound suspicion? And why has the State found it necessary to target librarians for criminal prosecution?”
Judge Brooks described the act’s challenge provision “very poorly drafted,” and suggested that the “fatally vague” provisions were written intentionally. “Perhaps any vagueness may be chalked up to the general assembly’s haste to enact Act 372, but the lack of clarity seems to have been by design,” wrote Brooks. “After all, by keeping the pivotal terms vague, local governing bodies have greater flexibility to assess a given challenge however they please rather than how the constitution dictates.”
One of the more inspiring ideals: “The vocation of a librarian requires a commitment to freedom of speech and the celebration of diverse viewpoints unlike that found in any other profession,” Brooks observed. “The librarian’s only enemy is the censor who judges contrary opinions to be dangerous, immoral, or wrong.”
Although libraries are funded by taxpayers and overseen by elected or appointed officials “the public library is not to be mistaken for simply an arm of the state,” Brooks wrote. “By virtue of its mission to provide the citizenry with access to a wide array of information, viewpoints, and content, the public library is decidedly not the state’s creature; it is the people’s.”
YES! This guy gets it!
Read more about Act 372 from the Central Arkansas Library System here.