Fayetteville, AR – The coalition of librarians, booksellers, and readers who successfully prevented portions of an Arkansas law that threatens to criminalize librarians and booksellers from taking effect is asking a court to permanently stop the law from being enforced.

Last July, Judge Timothy L. Brooks of the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas issued a ruling in Fayetteville Public Library et al. v. Crawford County, Arkansas et al., temporarily stopping sections of Arkansas Act 372–a law signed in 2023 by Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders–from taking effect. Act 372  would have forced librarians and booksellers to work under a vague and looming threat of criminal prosecution that encourages self-censorship and severely limits readers’ access to books in libraries and bookstores. A broad coalition of librarians, libraries, authors, publishers, readers, and booksellers, including the Arkansas Library Association, Advocates for All Arkansas Libraries, and Garland County Library Director Adam Webb, filed suit in June of 2023 to challenge the law and Judge Brooks ruled in favor of the coalition. 

“Act 372, which Governor Huckabee Sanders signed in 2023, is so broad and vague that librarians would have been forced to turn libraries into segregated vaults to avoid going to jail. The Court was correct when it stopped harmful sections of the law from taking effect,” said Ben Seel, Senior Counsel with Democracy Forward, which is representing the Arkansas Library Association (ArLA), Advocates for All Arkansas Libraries (AAAL), and Adam Webb in the case. “The freedom of speech and freedom to read are bedrocks of our democracy, so we were pleased the court temporarily halted these extreme provisions of this law from taking effect last year and we are now seeking to make this ruling permanent. By doing so, the court can make clear once and for all that librarians and booksellers across Arkansas can continue to serve Arkansans without fear of being prosecuted for simply doing their jobs and that readers across Arkansas can continue to access materials that interest them.”

A tsunami of censorship is sweeping across the country as unqualified and extreme officials at the state and local levels race to the bottom to ban books and intimidate librarians into self-censorship. Across the country, the professionals and families threatened by these anti-democratic and Orwellian censorship laws are fighting back. As reported by The Washington Post, in addition to Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma have recently enacted laws mandating fines or imprisonment, or both, for school employees and librarians, and another dozen states considered more than 20 similar bills last year.

The coalition challenging the law includes ArLA, AAAL, and Adam Webb, represented by Will Bardwell, Ben Seel, Aman George, and Orlando Economos of Democracy Forward; the Fayetteville Public Library, represented by Brandon B. Cate, Vincent O. Chadick, and Glenn V. Larkin at Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLCC; the Central Arkansas Library System, Nate Coulter, and the Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library, represented by John T. Adams and David M. Fuqua of Fuqua Campbell, P.A.; Pearl’s Books, Wordsworth Community Bookstore, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and the Freedom to Read Foundation, represented Michael A. Bamberger, Kristen Rodriguez, and Rebecca Hughes Parker of Dentons US LLP; and Olivia Farrell, Leta Caplinger, Miel Partain, and Madeline Partain, represented by Bettina Brownstein of the Bettina E. Brownstein Law Firm on behalf of the Arkansas Civil Liberties Union Foundation.

For more information about Democracy Forward and this case, please visit https://democracyforward.org/work/challenging-arkansas-unlawful-censorship-agenda-and-criminalization-of-librarians/

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