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Texas Library Association draws thousands to Fort Worth, ignites book ban debate

"A parent called 9-1-1 and police came storming into a school library. We're very concerned about that," said Woodard.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The book ban controversy has been talked about so much lately it can, ironically enough, fill shelves of a library.

WFAA sat down with Texas Library Association President-Elect Mary Woodard, who has three decades of library experience. The Texas Library Association (TLA) held its annual convention in Fort Worth this week, and 4,400 librarians from public and private schools were in attendance.

"There is frustration and anger," Woodard said. "A parent called 9-1-1 and police came storming into a school library. We're very concerned about that."  

Woodard did confirm to WFAA that the 9-1-1 incident did occur at a school in North Texas. Woodard stresses that every district has a process to challenge books. But many are unaware of the process by which books are approved.

The school board sets the guidelines for appropriateness, and the librarians use that guideline to review books.  

"We have parents that are wanting to dictate what everyone's child reads," said Woodard.

Woodard told WFAA that librarians are charged with finding material that is best suited for the district and school they serve. 

"They're mostly concerned about serving the kids in front of them," she said. 

The state, or Texas Education Agency, has no direct role on the library book review process. But the Texas Education Agency did offer recommendations in April. 

RELATED: Texas Education Agency’s new school library standards push for more scrutiny and parental input 

In the recommendations, TEA reminds districts that carrying material deemed inappropriate can be criminal. In this case, Texas Penal Code 43.24, which is the sale, distribution or display of harmful material to a minor. 

The TEA also recommends districts install a committee when a parent files a book challenge. 

TLA has established Texans for the Right to Read, which is a grassroots coalition meant to give voice to librarians during this censorship debate.

"A school board is not supposed to be partisan but we are seeing a shift in that in some locations," said Woodard.

RELATED: These were the 10 most challenged books in 2021, according to the American Library Association 

And dozens of books are being challenged in North Texas. 

In the end, it becomes a question of intellectual freedom versus obscenity. 

House Representative Jared Patterson has led the charge on sexually explicit books.

"I'm not blaming any specific librarian or teacher. I think the book vendors need to be held accountable for selling this trash," Patterson told WFAA last week.

Patterson told WFAA he and his staff have sent letters asking Texas school districts to pledge not to do business with certain book vendors. Thirty districts have signed the pledge. 

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