There have been plenty of recent news stories covering local libraries being verbally attacked or boycotted because of extremist right-wing groups attempting to censor or ban certain books from being available on shelves. It’s all part of a coordinated plan by the right to curb freedom of speech and hinder learning under the guise of protecting innocent children.
Typically, the books in question are from the LGBTQ genre, discuss sex education, or discuss topics of race — and that’s not a coincidence.
Until now, it’s been hard for librarians to know what to do to fight back against harassment and personal attacks as they try to do their job. But this week, one librarian in Louisiana has had enough and has taken action.
Amanda Jones, a librarian at a middle school in Denham Springs, Louisiana, filed a defamation lawsuit, claiming that Facebook pages run by Michael Lunsford and Ryan Thames have falsely accused her of being a pedophile.
“I’ve had enough for everybody,” Jones said in an interview with NBC News. “Nobody stands up to these people. They just say what they want and there are no repercussions and they ruin people’s reputations and there’s no consequences.”
The social media attacks on Jones, the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, came after she spoke against book censorship at a local library board meeting. She said she’s suing Lunsford and Thames because she is done with the insults and false accusations made at educators and librarians over LGBTQ materials.
Lunsford, who runs a conservative activist group called Citizens for a New Louisiana, spoke at the local board meeting advocating for restrictions on books with sexual content — a suggestion that Jones disagrees with.
“The citizens of our parish consist of taxpayers who are white, Black, brown, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian — people from all backgrounds and walks of life, and no one portion of the community should dictate what the rest of the citizens have access to,” Jones said at the meeting. “Just because you don’t want to read it or see it, it doesn’t give you the right to deny others or demand its relocation.”
Seems very logical.
She also explained it is a “false narrative” that librarians are putting pornography in children’s sections. She also gave promoters of book banning and censorship the benefit of the doubt. “ ... book challenges are often done with the best intentions, and in the name of age appropriateness,” she explained.
After the meeting, Citizens for a New Louisiana’s Facebook page posted Jones’ picture and asked, “Why is she fighting so hard to keep sexually erotic and pornographic materials in the kid’s section?”
As the weeks went on, the organization’s page posted several more times about Jones, including a post which stated she believes “that sharing erotica and instructing juveniles on sex acts is progressive.”
While Jones was the subject of attacks from Lunsford’s group, another Facebook page called Bayou State of Mind started to post memes with her photo, saying she is “advocating teaching anal sex to 11-year-olds.” According to Jones’ lawsuit, Bayou State of Mind is run by the other man named in her lawsuit — Ryan Thames.
“It’s awful, it’s humiliating,” Jones told NBC News. The lawsuit argues that the posts have damaged Jones’ reputation and incited threats of violence against her. The physical threats made against her scared her enough to stay home for two weeks, afraid to leave her house for fear of follow-through on those threats.
According to NBC News, Jones also worried that the public smear campaign against her would affect her family. She explained the memes and Facebook posts to her daughter, worried what her classmates would say to her about them.
Jones, who was the 2021 Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators Middle School Teacher of the Year and the 2021 School Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year, said more than 200 librarians from across the country have reached out to her as the news of her Facebook attacks spread. Many empathized with her, claiming they had also been victims of similar verbal and online abuse.
More than 1,500 people have donated to Jones’ GoFundMe, raising over $75,000 to help with her legal fees. “No one should be attacked for standing up for their community or speaking out against censorship,” the GoFundMe explains.
As for Jones, she is overwhelmed by the response from the public. “Thank you to the hundreds of friends, strangers, librarians, concerned citizens, journalists, CEO’s, and organizations who have reached out to me with support over the past few weeks,” she wrote on her GoFundMe page. “HUNDREDS! I appreciate you from the bottom of my heart. Censorship is not okay. Creating lies to defame someone is never okay. This will be a long road, but I’m willing to travel it.”
It can’t be said enough: thank heavens for librarians.