The Long Wait to Restore the First Amendment in Llano County Libraries

In April 2022, a group of seven patrons from the Llano County Library System in Texas filed a lawsuit against the county commissioners, the library system director, and advisory board members, alleging First Amendment violations.

This legal action was prompted by the removal of 17 books from the library's shelves and catalog. In response, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a preliminary injunction in March 2023, which is still effective, mandating the return of the books and prohibiting further removals while the case is under appeal.

The ongoing litigation is now two years old. It has significantly impacted the local community. Leila Green Little, a plaintiff from Llano, expressed the community's distress in a recent news story, stating: "This community has been torn apart. Friendships have ended. This election season was filled with hateful rhetoric. Our city looks like a laughingstock nationwide, and seemingly unrelated events and issues still are intertwined with the library issue."

As an organization dedicated to advocating for libraries and their users, EveryLibrary is deeply concerned about the protracted nature of this case and its broader implications for libraries, readers, and taxpayers in Texas and nationwide. John Chrastka, the Executive Director of EveryLibrary, emphasizes the importance of a swift resolution: "The First Amendment is crystal clear in its protections of free speech and free access to information. This case has significant implications and should be moved towards a quick resolution to uphold these fundamental rights. We support and admire the plaintiffs who have courageously stood up for their rights and the rights of all library users in the face of adversity. Their resilience underscores libraries' vital role in fostering informed and engaged communities.”

The case is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, with the county maintaining that the book removals were part of routine library management. This dispute's legal and emotional ramifications continue to resonate within the community. Delays in the judicial process deny justice to the plaintiffs and contribute to an environment of uncertainty that affects all stakeholders. Our American traditions of reading and the free exchange of ideas remain in peril when legal actions like this drag out.