EveryLibrary and PEN America Statement on Huntington Beach Censorship Committees

EveryLibrary and PEN America Statement Opposing New Proposed Ordinance in Huntington Beach, CA “Community-Parent Guardian Review Board for Review of Procurement of Children’s Library Material” (No. 4318 3/19/24)

As advocacy organizations that champion intellectual freedom, professional librarianship, and access to diverse materials without fear or favor, EveryLibrary and PEN America are deeply troubled by proposed ordinance No. 4318 in Huntington Beach, California. This ordinance, which is scheduled for discussion on March 19, 2024, seeks to establish a so-called community parent/guardian review board with the power to approve or reject children's books and materials based on their content, specifically sexual content.


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This proposed ordinance is nothing short of an effort to erect a censorship committee to police public access to literature. It has the potential to infringe upon First Amendment rights, undermine the professional judgment of librarians, and negatively impact library services in significant ways. 

Public libraries should be spaces for free exploration and learning, not arenas for imposing restrictive community standards on intellectual content. Yet despite overwhelming and consistent community objection, the Huntington Beach City Council has continued to promote this censorial agenda. Restricting access to materials based on their content is a form of censorship that violates the First Amendment rights of library users, especially families from minority populations or perspectives. 

Communities are best served by librarians who possess specialized education and training in collection development. They are best positioned to curate collections that serve the entire community's educational, informational, and recreational needs. This proposed ordinance would shift this responsibility to a non-professional body, disregarding library professionals' ethical standards and expertise. Further, implementing such a review board would introduce bureaucratic hurdles, delaying the procurement of new materials and potentially leading to increased costs and administrative burdens for libraries.

Indeed, the proposed ordinance appears designed to lead to a chilling effect on the availability of diverse and inclusive materials, particularly those addressing LGBTQ+ topics, sex education, and other subjects deemed controversial by some. This restriction can disproportionately affect marginalized communities, denying them access to essential resources and information.

EveryLibrary and PEN America stand with the Friends of the Huntington Beach Library and other local community members asking the City Council to rescind anti-patron and anti-library policies. We are ready to support the Huntington Beach library community and all who advocate for the fundamental principles of intellectual freedom and access to information. We call on community members, library stakeholders, and policymakers to join us in opposing this ordinance and advocating for the values that define our public libraries as inclusive centers for learning and engagement.

Libraries must remain places of freedom, learning, and inclusivity, not subjected to censorship and arbitrary standards that serve to divide and diminish communities.


At PEN America, Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057

At EveryLibrary, John Chrastka, [email protected], 312-574-0316