AUPresses Responds to State Legislative Overreach into School Libraries 

Files Amicus Brief in Texas HB 900 Case

Today, the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) joined with other like-minded groups to file an amicus curiae brief with the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, asking the court to enjoin the implementation of a new Texas law, formerly known as HB 900, that requires the rating of books and other materials according to sexual content if they are to be sold to school libraries.

The full brief is available here (PDF, via Dropbox)

Acting with the American Association of School Librarians, Barnes and Noble Booksellers Inc., Freedom to Learn Advocates, and the Freedom to Read Foundation, AUPresses supports the plaintiffs requesting preliminary injunction of this misguided law before it is scheduled to take effect on September 1. Those plaintiffs are Austin’s BookPeople, West Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, the Association of American Publishers, the American Booksellers Association, the Authors Guild, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The amicus brief agrees that this book-banning law is blatantly unconstitutional for all the reasons set forth by the plaintiffs’ motion (available here) and elaborates on two aspects:  

  • First, the ban is a content-based regulation of speech and cannot survive strict scrutiny. Any broad speech restriction aimed at protecting children that is not limited to works without redeeming social, literary, scientific, or artistic value for minors is unconstitutional. 
  • Second, the burdensome and coercive requirements on publishers, booksellers, and distributors to label literary works according to vague and highly subjective government standards amount to unconstitutional compelled speech.

“We are dismayed by the layers of unconstitutionality in this book-banning law as well as the draconian nature of its implementation,” said AUPresses Executive Director Peter Berkery. “We have received reports from our members that distributors are overwhelmed by the law’s requirements and are asking for publishers’ rating assistance so they can continue to serve school libraries in Texas.”

“The coercive nature of this ban is simply breathtaking,” Berkery continued. “Failure to comply has significant financial and reputational consequences.” 

As a community of publishers dedicated to intellectual freedom, diversity and inclusion, and the advance of human knowledge, AUPresses also recognizes that this Texas law rides a rising tide of book challenges and bans, state legislative attacks on the freedom to read, and the unjust—and in some cases life-threatening—vilification of librarians across the US. It represents yet another unconstitutional incursion by politically motivated state legislators into school governance, overriding the rights of parents, schools, librarians, and teachers to evaluate materials and make decisions that best meet the needs of their own individual communities.

Update, August 31, 2023: Federal district judge Alan D. Albright said during a status conference today that he will grant a motion for a preliminary injunction to block Texas’s controversial book ban law, which was due to take effect on September 1. He expects to issue a written order within two weeks.

Update, September 18, 2023: The court’s full decision is now available.

About the Association of University Presses

AUPresses is an organization of nearly 160 international nonprofit scholarly publishers. Since 1937, the Association of University Presses advances the essential role of a global community of publishers whose mission is to ensure academic excellence and cultivate knowledge. The Association holds intellectual freedom, integrity, stewardship, and equity and inclusion as core values. AUPresses members are active across many scholarly disciplines, including the humanities, arts, and sciences, publish significant regional and literary work, and are innovators in the world of digital publishing.

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