Podcast | Why one WA library could be voted out of existence

Calls for censorship of LGBTQ+ young-adult books in Columbia County mirror a national political debate. Meg Butterworth shares her reporting.

What's the T book by Juno Dawson

What’s the T by Juno Dawson is one of several books that have sparked controversy in Dayton, though most of those at the board meeting had never read it. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

A fight has been raging nationwide over book-banning in schools and libraries. According to the American Library Association, calls for censorship of specific titles nearly doubled between 2021 and 2022, and the vast majority targeted books by and about the LGBTQ+ community and people of color.

But as reporter Meg Butterworth found, in one rural county in Washington the battle has gone beyond the books themselves. It could end up eliminating an entire library system. 

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That’s because, after a year of tense board meetings, misinformation and demands to censor half-a-dozen titles, one local resident collected enough signatures to put a petition to close the library on Columbia County’s November ballot. 

For this episode of Crosscut Reports, host Sara Bernard talks with Butterworth about what’s been happening in Columbia County, how closely it tracks with the national debate and what all this says about political polarization, censorship, the role of librarians and the meaning of a public library. 

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