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MASL Protecting Intellectual Freedom: A Call to Action!

Monday, February 13, 2023 8:37 AM | Heather Perkinson (Administrator)

In addition to writing letters of support for challenged books to many school boards in Maine this year, the intrepid volunteers on your MASL Executive Board, along with IF Chair Karen Silverman and her committee of Abigail Thompson and Kerrie Lattari, have been hard at work fighting for intellectual freedom. If you’re experiencing a challenge of any kind (Maybe your administrator is second-guessing your book order? Maybe a colleague has asked you not to let their students check out a certain book? Maybe you are worried that you can no longer safely order certain books for your library?) please do not hesitate to reach out to us for support and advice. 

MASL President Heather Perkinson has been busy spreading the word about intellectual freedom. Hopefully by now you’ve seen her media appearances: she was quoted in the Washington Post, interviewed by local Fox 23, appeared on Richard Rudolph’s Community Voices for Change radio show, wrote an important opinion piece for the Press Herald, and was featured on the podcast School Librarians United. Be sure to register for Reading Roundup where you can join Karen, Heather, and others who will be presenting a panel discussion on intellectual freedom in Maine schools.

Most recently, Heather and Beth Andersen have also been working with the Maine Library Association and John Chrastka of to battle LD123:  "An Act to Eliminate the Educational Purposes Exception to the Prohibition on the Dissemination of Obscene Matter to Minors." Beth and Heather have exchanged countless emails and had several meetings with John Chrastka and members of the MLA Board. Additionally, Beth and representatives from the MLA recently met with the sponsor of the bill. With the help of EveryLibrary, MLA and MASL have created a letter writing campaign site which we encourage you to share widely:

If you live in the districts of any of the following state legislators, we especially need you to write a personal email to them asking that the bill be rejected before it makes it out of their Education and Cultural Affairs Committee: Joseph Rafferty or Holly Sargent of York, Jim Libby of Standish, Teresa Pierce of Falmouth, Michael Brennan of Portland, Barbara Bagshaw of Windham, Jan Dodge of Belfast, Belmont and Northport, Sheila Lyman of Livermore Falls, Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, Kelly Murphy of Scarborough, Edward Polewarczyk of Wiscasset, Heidi Sampson of Lyman (Part) / Alfred/ Waterboro (Part), J. Worth of Ellsworth.

Their email address will follow this pattern: If you need any guidance writing such an email, please do not hesitate to reach out to us! 

MASL and MLA are also forming a coalition with other Maine groups who would be affected by the bill. Currently on board with us: the ACLU of Maine, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, Maine Humanities Council, Maine Chapter of the National Social Workers Association, and The Telling Room. MLA and MASL have drafted a joint statement with these groups, so look for that to appear soon and be prepared to share it widely! For now, you can share the email campaign website with your union leadership and ask them to share it with members. You can stress that this legislation will have far-reaching effects, not just on libraries and librarians, but on any school staff that shares material with students that might be considered “obscene.”

Here are some talking points to guide you when discussing LD 123:

  • This legislation would affect not just a school librarians, but any teacher who works with curriculum or literature that could be considered "obscene": English (including AP), Health, Art, School Counselors, School Nurses, potentially some Social Studies and PE teachers as well

  • This is not just a 1st Amendment issue but a “Dignity of Work” issue, it will impact how we are treated as professionals, we will be questioned and micromanaged on everything we teach, every book we purchase, and it threatens to criminalize our workforce, this is effectively intimidation of workers

  • This bill would also criminalize certain identities and threaten the civil rights of those teachers and students who identify with any of the protected categories affected by this, specifically LGBTQ people

  • The criminal code it would amend is commercial code, not meant for nonprofits, education has always been exempt in Maine, along with 44 other states with similar exemptions for education

  • This bill has serious implications for school funding: the cost of insurance & risk management are unknown but would be significant, in order to protect school districts against potential lawsuits and prosecution of their employees

  • Putting the bill in practice would have possible implications for schools' abilities to observe the legal constraints of Title IX

  • We already have good policies in place (IJJs) that guide teachers and librarians in choosing materials, this bill needlessly targets educators, overreaches the authority of the Legislature, and conflicts with the local control and jurisdiction of School Boards

  • This law will not stand up to the Miller Test, which is based on a Supreme Court decision used to determine if material is actually obscene or just makes some people uncomfortable. This federal decision, which also applies in Maine schools, allows parents to opt their children out of any material that makes them uncomfortable by following the IMJB policy. This proposed bill, however, would take away parental rights, because it would limit access to materials for ALL children. Libraries and public schools are for everyone, you can not limit access to materials for other parents' children.

The sponsor of this legislation and his allies have said that they are responding to the presence of one book in school libraries, Maia Kobabe’s highly acclaimed memoir, Gender Queer (the same book that has been repeatedly challenged in Maine schools over the past two years). But this legislation goes far beyond the banning of one book. Make no mistake, the people that are organizing this fight are not just trying to limit our intellectual freedom, this is a direct attack on public education. Letting this legislation out of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, let alone allowing it to pass, will open the doors to many more bills like it. In this fight, we are not just opposing the censorship of one book or the passage of one law, we are letting our legislators know that we will not be silenced by a vocal minority. We need all hands on deck to do this work and protect the education system that keeps our democracy strong.




Maine Association of School Libraries

c/o Maine State Library

64 State Street

Augusta, ME


"MASL" is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization. 

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