Texas Officials Would Rather Close Library Than Stock Books They Don’t Like

A federal judge ruled against a book ban in Llano, TX. Now, local officials are discussing shutting down the public library system entirely.
Rows of library books in the children's section of a library in Austin, Texas
The Washington Post / Getty Images

County commissioners in Llano, Texas have signaled they would rather close an entire library system than comply with a court order to stop censoring books. 

On Monday, Llano County Commissioners called for a special meeting where the main agenda item is to determine whether to “continue or cease operations” of the Llano County Library System “pending further guidance from the Federal Courts.”


The move is being considered after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against Llano County last month, which ordered the county to return 12 books that had been removed from library shelves. According to a Daily Tribune report, the books were returned within 24 hours of the order and all 12 were checked out the next day.

The plaintiffs argued that officials infringed on their First Amendment rights to access and receive ideas by removing the books, and their 14th Amendment right to due process because the books were removed without notice or the option to appeal. 

Like many book bans across the US, the titles at the center of the suit include a variety of books about race, sex, and gender. Titles that were removed include They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti; Being Jazz: My Life as a Transgender Teen, by LGBTQ activist Jazz Jennings; and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson.


However, Motherboard found that several of the books in question were kids books having to do with farting and butts. Riveting titles like Larry The Farting Leprechaun, Gary The Goose and His Gas On The Loose, and the collection of stories “My Butt is So Noisy!" "I Broke My Butt!" and "I Need a New Butt!" are among the materials the county had sought to remove.

A spokesperson for the Llano County Commissioners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman’s decision, he wrote that the plaintiffs “clearly met their burden to show that these are content-based restrictions that are unlikely to pass constitutional muster.” Pitman prohibited officials from removing any more books while the lawsuit is pending.

But text messages entered as evidence in the case show that the vice chair of the library advisory board from February 2 indicated that closing the library system may have been the defendant's plan all along if the judge’s decision didn’t go their way. In one message, the vice chair wrote: “The (Llano County) judge (Rob Cunningham) has said, if we lose the injunction, he will close the library because he will not put the porn back into the kid’s section! Very Courageous! Keep praying!” The defendants appealed the court’s decision.

Library advocacy groups like the FReadom Fighters called the decision a success. But plaintiffs didn’t get everything they wanted from the decision last week; Pitman dismissed the part of the suit that called for county officials to reinstate the library ebook system OverDrive for patrons. 

If the library system closes, the American Library Association (ALA) says it would be the first time a public library were to close because its governing body wanted to avoid complying with a court order to stop censoring books. 

“When the information needs of thousands of Llano County residents are at the mercy of a vocal minority’s prejudices, and when elected officials set out to deny library users to access to books and resources containing ideas and viewpoints with which county officials disagree, we must all speak out,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, told Motherboard. 

The special meeting to determine the library system’s fate will take place on Thursday.