Kentucky library bill potentially jeopardizes our freedom to read

from PEN America

Bill Allows County Executives to Reject Appointees Recommended by Library Boards and Appoint Whomever They Want

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(New York)– PEN America has issued the following statement in response to a new bill passed by the Kentucky Legislature, Senate Bill 167, which would, in effect, politicize county library boards, allowing county executives to reject recommended appointees and take control of the boards through political appointees. The bill becomes law in January 2023.

In response, Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression programs at PEN America, stated: “Though often unheralded as such, public libraries are the beating heart of democracy, making access to the universe of knowledge and information open and equitable for all. At a moment when book bans are sweeping the nation, this effort to hand power to politicians to wield vast control over libraries in Kentucky should be viewed as a massive alarm bell. These attempts to politicize decisions about what information the public can access and what books they can or can’t read, pose a direct threat to the freedom to read.”

Under the bill, county library boards would make initial recommendations of appointees for the boards. Previously, the county judge or executive was required to choose from among the library boards’ recommendations. Under the new law, the county judge/executive can reject all the recommended names and reject the next set of recommendations from the state Department of Libraries and Archives, and then appoint whomever they want.

Senate Bill 167 appeared dead last week following a veto from Governor Andy Beshear and not enough votes from the state House of Representatives. But it was revived by supporters through an override vote and passed on Tuesday.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

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