Today's Paper News Sports Features Business Opinion LEARNS Guide Newsletters Obits Games Archive Notices Core Values

Libraries, booksellers sue to overturn parts of new Arkansas law on library materials

by Joseph Flaherty | June 2, 2023 at 1:07 p.m.
FILE — The state Capitol is shown in this undated file photo.

A coalition of 17 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday that asks a judge to strike down as unconstitutional two sections of Act 372, a new Arkansas law on school and public library materials.  

The introduction to the complaint calls Act 372 "a vague, sweeping law that restrains public libraries and booksellers in Arkansas from making available constitutionally protected books and other media to their patrons and customers."

The library plaintiffs are the Central Arkansas Library System — the library system's board on May 25 voted in favor of authorizing the lawsuit — the Fayetteville Public Library and the Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library.

Industry groups include the Arkansas Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers and the Freedom to Read Foundation. Also included as plaintiffs are two bookstores: Pearl's Books, located in Fayetteville, and WordsWorth Books, located in Little Rock.

Individual plaintiffs include Nate Coulter, the executive director of the Central Arkansas Library System, and Adam Webb, the director of the Garland County Library. 

The complaint names 28 Arkansas prosecuting attorneys as defendants.

Additionally, the complaint names Crawford County as well as Crawford County Judge Chris Keith, citing the county library's recent decision to remove children's books with LGBTQ themes from the children's section. The complaint suggests more changes are coming to the Crawford County Library in response to Act 372. 

The complaint focuses on two of the law's six sections. The first contested section establishes a new Class A misdemeanor offense of furnishing a harmful item to a minor.

The other contested section sets a process for citizens to be able to challenge the appropriateness of public library materials, then appeal the library's decision to a local city council or quorum court in the event library officials decide not to relocate the material in question to an area inaccessible to minors.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Act 372 will go into effect Aug. 1, absent any injunction issued in the meantime. 


Sponsor Content