Haters attacked an inclusive public library. 

3 min read

Haters attacked an inclusive public library. 

Event at Hoboken Library

In June last year, the Hoboken Public Library in New Jersey organized an event titled Banned Books Read-A-Thon as part of the celebrations for Pride Month. According to Jennie Pu, the library’s director, the event was straightforward, with participants simply reading aloud from various books. Despite the event’s simplicity, it triggered significant backlash from conservative circles. This commenced when Chaya Raichik, known for her controversial posts on the Libs of TikTok platform, criticized the event, claiming that the selected books endorsed inappropriate content. As a result, the library received numerous hostile communications, which Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla condemned as “disgusting expressions of homophobia, racism, and intolerance.” Mayor Bhalla denounced Raichik for intentionally disseminating misleading information and reiterated the town’s support for the LGBTQ+ community. Despite the negativity, local leaders and the community remained undeterred, showcasing their support by reading children’s books promoting inclusivity.

Reaction and Progression

Pu expressed that the negative responses were primarily from individuals outside the Hoboken community. The event underscored the vulnerability of liberal cities to conservative attacks, regardless of the state’s political leaning. Following the event, Pu took steps to designate the Hoboken Public Library as a sanctuary for books, inspired by the book sanctuary movement that started in Chicago in 2022. The initiative gained widespread support, with the community and other libraries across the state expressing pride and seeking guidance on implementing similar declarations. The push towards creating a more inclusive and protected literary environment marked Hoboken as New Jersey’s inaugural book sanctuary city.

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Nationwide Challenges and the Future

Pu highlighted the national issue of book banning, where a small minority is attempting to remove books addressing LGBTQ+ topics and racial issues from educational institutions. She pointed out the shift in censorship tactics, emphasizing the need to remain vigilant as the political landscape evolves. The impending Freedom to Read Act in New Jersey, which Pu supports, aims to safeguard the constitutional right to read and protect librarians from undue harassment. This legislative effort reflects a broader battle against increasing scrutiny and restrictions on educational content.

Personal Insights and Advocacy

As a parent, Pu underscores the importance of providing access to a diverse range of stories, especially for young individuals seeking understanding and identity. She advocates for the creation of personal book sanctuaries, demonstrating that anyone can contribute to the movement in their capacity. Pu remains hopeful, asserting the enduring values of inclusivity and the fundamental rights to information and expression, despite the challenges faced by libraries and educators across the nation. She is committed to continuing the fight for these principles, highlighting the unexpected yet crucial role librarians are playing in defending intellectual freedom.

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