|A crowd gathered for the county commission meeting in Llano County, Texas. (Photo by Phil Reynolds, The Highlander)|
|Photo: Aaron E. Hernandez, American-Statesman|
Not all big decisions are made in big places. Here’s one from the Texas Hill Country. “When commissioners in Llano County, population 21,000, voted Thursday to keep its three-branch library system open, the moment was closely monitored by the biggest news organizations in the country,” write Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent of The Washington Post. Technically, commissioners voted “to remove an item from their agenda to consider whether to ‘continue or cease operations’ of the Llano County Library System “pending further guidance’,” The Highlander of Marble Falls reports, under a heading saying the commissioners voted to “postpone” the vote.
The Post explains, “Like many other similar conflicts, this one was triggered by a single Llano resident, Bonnie Wallace, who objected in 2021 to library books she pronounced ‘pornographic filth.’. . . One of the big surprises of these sagas has been outbreaks of resistance to book purges in the reddest places, and here again, some locals dissented” and filed suit. Griswold reports, “A federal district judge in Austin issued a preliminary injunction in the case at the end of March, ordering the county to replace the books it had removed from libraries and prohibiting officials from taking away any other books while the court case is pending.”
|Llano County (Wikipedia map)|
“Thursday’s meeting drew dozens of residents from both sides of the issue,” Griswold reports. “Michael McDavid, 60, who held a sign that read ‘We love our library,’ has lived in Llano County for 35 years. He said that closing the library system would cripple the community: “Our little library is our community center. . . . That’s where everything goes on, from internet access to exercise classes, books, DVDs, and without our library, we’re kind of a rudderless community.”
Griswold reports, “Fifteen people addressed the Commissioners Court during public testimony with more than half vehemently against closing the county’s libraries . . . Speakers included former teachers and librarians who defended libraries as “safe spaces for gathering” for children and adults. . . . Other speakers read explicit passages from select books. . . . one resident asked the commissioners, ‘Does Llano, Texas, want to be known as the town that closed the public library?’ Joanie Castleman, who attended the meeting but did not testify before the commissioners, told Griswold, “I’d like to see the library closed if they’re going to leave those books in the library. It’s not about banning books or burning them. It’s about protecting our children.”
Once the agenda item was dropped, administrative County Judge Ron Cunningham “read a two-page statement, condemning the ongoing litigation and its cost to the county and acknowledging the division the debate has brought to the community. He said, “This has been a very contentious situation. This is not what Llano County is about, ladies and gentlemen; we’re better than this. . . . The library will remain open. We will try this in the courts, not through social media or the news media.”