Now They’re After The Libraries

The Indiana General Assembly is back in session. This time, mercifully, it’s a short session, but that hasn’t stopped the supermajority from continuing its efforts to turn Indiana into Mississippi.

A commentary by my friend Michael Leppert recently began by poking fun at bills filed by lawmakers who were apparently unable to employ legislative language that would actually accomplish what seemed to be their goals. He  then moved on to bills introduced so far during this legislative session that “aren’t humorous, or merely humorless. They are hateful.” 

One of those hateful bills is House Bill 1291, filed by Rep. Chris Judy, R-Fort Wayne. That bill

attempts to erase the word “gender” from the Indiana Code and replace it with “biological sex.” He wants to legally cancel all transgender people in Indiana. If his bill were to pass, as filed, transgender people would no longer exist in the state. The bill creates definitions for other things too. Words like “woman,” “man,” “girl,” and “boy,” would now all mean what the legislature says they mean. 

Leppert is entirely correct that the cited bill is hateful, and its effects would be assisted and strengthened by a seemingly unrelated effort to destroy–or at least severely hobble–the state’s public libraries.

As WFYI reports

Indiana Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would drastically change the way public libraries are funded and limit the types of events and activities they can host. The legislation could also potentially result in decreased funding for library services.

Senate Bill 32, authored by Sens. Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville) and Gary Byrne (R-Byrneville), would eliminate the ability for public libraries to impose property taxes. Instead, libraries would need to submit their budgets for approval to their local city or county government, in the same way that other municipal departments do. 

The proposal comes months after legislation that makes it easier for community members to request removals of books from schools was signed into law. And libraries across the country have come under fire in recent years for hosting events like drag queen story hours, or for including books in their young adult collections that some people find objectionable.

Byrne, you will recall, was the lawmaker trying to stop a nonprofit program giving voters  free rides to the polls (although Leppert points out that the language in his bill was so imprecise it would prevent transit companies from giving any person a free or reduced fare for any reason on election days.)

Senate Bill 32 would have a massively negative impact on libraries and their patrons. For one thing, it would allow counties to choose not to fund a public library at all. But the bill would do more than “merely” strike at library funding; it would prevent libraries from engaging in a wide variety of activities that currently benefit their communities.

The proposed legislation would also restrict libraries to a set of “core functions,” that are limited to public access to library materials, quiet areas for study, technical assistance, and acquisition of services for members of the public.

But public libraries typically offer a much wider array of services, including early literacy programs, science, technology, education and math programs, as well as dedicated makerspace labs, community programming like author talks, music performances and art exhibits.

Increasingly, libraries have also begun to offer social work services to help patrons gain access to government assistance, housing and mental health services.

In a statement, the Indiana Library Federation said the bill doesn’t take into account the ways modern public libraries operate as community hubs. As the Library Federation points out, “Not providing library patrons with these services would directly affect public libraries from meeting Indiana State Library compliance standards.”

The Federation also listed the numerous ways that public libraries are fiscally accountable. They are governed by boards whose members are appointed by local elected officials.

Library boards approve annual budgets, and they host public meetings and hearings on those budgets. Library budgets are publicly available, and they’re also submitted to the state’s Department of Local Government Finance and the State Board of Accounts for review. Rogers said libraries are also routinely audited by the state.

If passed, the bill would result in an increased administrator workload for municipal and county governments — which would have to take on the duties of budget oversight and approval for libraries, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

But if libraries are free to enlighten (or–horror of horrors–to host Drag Queen story hours) some citizens might realize–among other things– that trans people exist!

Your Indiana Republican legislators: working around the clock to defund and neuter any part of government that might educate Hoosier citizens. 


  1. It is a sort of “death by a thousand cuts”, and is consistent with the authoritarians playbook.

  2. How much is too much? How low is too low? Whenever you think the MAGATS have hit their nadir they always prove you wrong. Maybe WE have to fight like hell, if WE want to have OUR country. VOTE BLUE!

  3. What else would any rational person expect from Republicans? They have to positive agenda other than racing backwards toward the 18th century as fast as they can. They are mostly ignorant of language in any form but what’s poured down their throats in church. It’s really sad to see the good people of Indiana be subjected to that kind of stupidity.

    Yes, the. Indiana Republicans think backwardness is good. Retreat into Jim Crow is good. Undoing women’s rights is good. Then, there’s the Republican House leader Steve Scalese who says Trump is the right man for the job of President. Sure. Have we become a nation who worships criminals and rapists and liars and cheats and treasonous bastards? Well, if you’re among the 25% of antediluvian Republicans, you do.

    I guess voting for rational, forward-thinking representation is just not on Indiana’s agenda… or Mississippi’s… or Texas’… or… take your pick.`

  4. I’m so depressed! When are we going to revolt and march again? Hurry up because I’m getting older every day. Please, there are enough people who see where we are headed and we need to get moving!!

  5. Nothing screams “ignorance and bigotry” as much as an Indiana Republican lawmaker.

  6. Why are these people so afraid of ‘others’? Don’t they realize that those ‘others’ have been with us and part of our communities forever? Isn’t it time for us to accept that no everyone is ‘just like everyone else’? I am thoroughly disgusted with our legislators who insist on seeking out those who have always been with us and who want to be who they are.

    And cutting library functionality is baloney. They provides hubs of opportunity that don’t exist anywhere else in our community.

  7. I understand people who are proud to be who they are.

    What, though, is the problem with accepting that the same trait applies to all homo sapiens? What is to be gained by making others ashamed of who they are?

    I don’t understand. Can anyone clear that up for me?

  8. Well darn it – if the right wing nuts elected to the state legislature don’t author these extreme bills provided by ALEC, how are they supposed to bring attention to themselves or make it look like they actually work for their paycheck? Such bills can be critical for their job security while scoring points with ALEC and dark money donors.

  9. The darkness on this blog (and among the “community” I lead) is getting to me. We need to look back to MLK and the tactics that made a difference in the civil rights movement. Thinking here about the boycotts. How much do we know about the MAGA funders and their businesses? What products of the Koch Brothers can we publicize to stop using?

    We seem to have forgotten this powerful “capitalistic” lever…

  10. looking back at my early life,9-10 YO, the library half block away was a refuge when the Newark riots were going on. the librarians took me under arm and i found work and knowlege that became my inner movement. the refrence wing was my reading side. books of historic events,and how cruel people in power can be allowed to over ride a democratic society. having many war vets in the area allowed me to listen to,their words,and then compare them to the same events written in those books. by the time i was 11, they handed me a adult library card. it was the gateway to finding more. late afternoons I was restacking books, holding them,wondering about the content. never was much for fiction,but the history there,it never left me. though you may judge my writing skills here, they are not of my comprehension of how to read.. I may clobber ya all with my grammer and wit, but I stand in the shadow of what that library gave me,for free…

  11. Lester:
    im on it.. though its sad that many corps buy up most anything, were fooled by who owns what.
    never bought gallo, (UFW) purina ( racist) and a few others. the Bud lite crap, really, but we see how the maggot bunch has suceeded in making waves against the LBQT set. do the work,as Dr King said, peacefully…

  12. Jack et al – the boycotts need to be national and absolutely non-partisan. As an idealistic example, it could be a way to clearly separate the big energy companies who are actively diversifying from fossil fuels and their own bad production processes and those genuinely moving into a better future – despite all the PR efforts of all players.

  13. Every day I see evidence of the rationale of my old World Politics professor who refused to call us latter day apes homo sapiens, insisting that we be instead denominated “homo saps,” and Sheila’s correct observation that the Indiana State Legislature is busily turning us into Mississippi is true but a bit tardy. We are arguably already beyond that sorry state’s status and headed for that of the Lone Star State of Texas, a fascist/welfare state run by a dictator with the aid of a criminal AG.

    I am not shocked that libraries are on the hit list of those who are greasing the skids for a fascist takeover of America. Their re-writes of history and Don’t say gay (De Fascist), slavery as governmental change (Haley), terminal capitalism is good for serfs (Koch), and, of course, Trump, who openly admits that he will become a fascist dictator if elected, tell us all we need to know about defending our democratic institutions in this age when their playbook looks much like the early 1930s in Nazifying Germany.

    Libraries, schools that teach history as it is, curricula drafting by educational experts and not politicians, freedom of expression etc. are all enemies of fascism, and dribble by dribble, authoritarians are all in for their destruction under various guises, authoritarians who are ignoring the sacrifices of those who bled and died for democracy in Valley Forge, the Civil War, WW I, WW II, and just lately, 1/6.

    Two of my friends died for democracy in a war in which I participated, one a Marine on a beach in the South Pacific (a beach I as a sailor visited after it was cleared), and the other the pilot of a B-24 medium bomber, who was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over China. I will never forget them or their sacrifices for democracy and against fascism, a system I never dreamed would or even could become the governing philosophy of the USA.

    So libraries today, and what tomorrow? More voter suppression? Jail time for drag shows? Hitler had his burning of the Reichstag and beerhall putsch, and Trump had had his 1/6, and ominously, both were free to go their ways afterwards. Perhaps democracy is fragile because accountability is slow, uncertain and subject to propaganda attacks by well-heeled defendants, problems authoritarian gestapo will not have if Trump is elected and (as he openly suggested) ends the Constitution.

  14. I have an app on my phone that helps me decide what companies, restaurants, products, etc. to support through my purchases. Check out Goods Unite Us (GUU: Debate Politics & Shop). It’s free, easy to use, and the information is interesting.
    BTW, I look forward to this blog every day, but have never commented before. Thanks to Sheila and all those who comment regularly. You make me feel less alone.

  15. Lester –

    Good luck boycotting the Koch brothers’ products. Years ago they recognized that a key to their power and survival is diversification. They have purchased companies that manufacture so many of the basics that we all need. I realized a few years ago that it is nearly impossible to avoid buying at least one of their products, if not more, at the grocery store or Walmart.

  16. Another thing that I don’t understand is the concept that Capitalism can exist without socialism or regulation.

    I went to a very ordinary, small-town public school. In engineering school, we had no room in the curriculum for business courses, political science, or general education. So, how do I know those few basics about macroeconomics? I don’t know. They are what professors use to call “intuitive.”

    “It is intuitively obvious that” blah blah blah.

    Apparently, what’s obvious or intuitive to some is pretty obscure to others.

  17. Just minutes ago finished reading “My Friend Anne Frank,” by Anne’s childhood friend, Hannah Pick-Goslar. Quite the read.
    Hitler, and his buddies, would cheer on these small-minded bozos!

  18. Pete,

    Read the works of John Maynard Keynes. Or, read my book, “Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism.” You will find citations back to original works that explains the aspects of your dilemma.

    To your other point, shaming has been part of the tribalism that has existed since – probably – before written history. In Rebecca Costa’s great book, “The Watchman’s Rattle”, she delineates how our social evolution has far out-stripped our biological evolution such that we are operating with a mind set of 200,000 years ago in a modern society with over 8 billion homo whatevers running around killing each other.

  19. Pam C – Thanks for sharing this! Gotta start somewhere!


    Hard to believe in these times of so many store-branded goods that there are not alternatives to Koch Stuff. What brands did you have problems with?

  20. Another example of the short sighted and ignorance of the legislature. The better educated and wealthier areas tend to value and appreciate libraries, but the areas where people are less educated and poorer, and who have more need of a well-resourced library, tend not to value education and the vast array of services and resources available to the public for free. My son is an administrator in the Winnetka-Northfield Public Library, which offers a wide variety of sources to the community which highly values their library and is considered a valued resource to persons who already have access to such resources and are famous in their own right. The more resources a community has, the more it values its public library. Then comes Indiana.

  21. Sigh; Phil Ochs is no longer around to write a song about Indiana, as he did Mississippi. Sheila, maybe you should commission one.

    Here are the lyrics for “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.” Gosh, so many parallels to contemporary Indiana (just imagine the potential verses for Indiana: to the legislators, to the attorney general, to the judges, to the schools, etc.).

    Here’s to the State of Mississippi
    For underneath her borders, the devil draws no lines
    If you drag her muddy rivers, nameless bodies you will find
    Oh, the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes
    The calendar is lyin’ when it reads the present time
    Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
    Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of
    And here’s to the people of Mississippi
    Who say the folks up north, they just don’t understand
    And they tremble in their shadows at the thunder of the Klan
    Oh, the sweating of their souls can’t wash the blood from off their hands
    Oh, they smile and shrug their shoulders at the murder of a man
    Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
    Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of
    And here’s to the schools of Mississippi
    Where they’re teaching all the children that they don’t have to care
    All the rudiments of hatred are present everywhere
    And every single classroom is a factory of despair
    And there’s nobody learning such a foreign word as fair
    Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
    Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of
    And here’s to the cops of Mississippi
    They’re chewing their tobacco as they lock the prison door
    And their bellies bounce inside them when they knock you to the floor
    No, they don’t like taking prisoners in their private little wars
    And behind their broken badges there are murderers and more
    Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
    Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of
    And here’s to the judges of Mississippi
    Who wear the robe of honor as they crawl into the court
    They’re guarding all the bastions of their phony legal fort
    Oh, justice is a stranger when the prisoners report
    When the black man stands accused the trial is always short
    Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
    Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of
    And here’s to the government of Mississippi
    In the swamp of their bureaucracy they’re always bogging down
    And criminals are posing as the mayors of the towns
    And they hope that no one sees the sights
    And no one hears the sounds
    And the speeches of the governor are the ravings of a clown
    Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
    Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of
    And here’s to the laws of Mississippi
    Congressmen will gather in a circus of delay
    While the Constitution’s drowning in an ocean of decay
    Unwed mothers should be sterilized, I’ve even heard them say
    Yes, corruption can be classic in the Mississippi way
    Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
    Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of
    And here’s to the churches of Mississippi
    Where the cross, once made of silver, now is caked with rust
    And the Sunday morning sermons pander to their lust
    Oh, he fallen face of Jesus is choking in the dust
    And heaven only knows in which God they can trust
    Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
    Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of

  22. Aberger – Phil was one of the best of that breed -have all his records…

    Where are the Phil Ochs of today writing passionate songs about climate change, inequality, etc..? Likely on their phones, having fun or just rockin’ away…while our democracy shreds.


  23. Remember when you go to the polls in November to vote straight “BLUE” no matter who is on the ballot! Chances are there will mostly be Republicans on the ballot in Clay County. It takes money to run for a local position or you have to be well known. I ran for Clay County Treasurer two years ago. I was more qualified. I spent $5,000…. with little help from folks that lived in the county. Now that I am 80, I am not sure I will ever use my signs that I have stored in my garage.

  24. This blog excerpt brings me right back to the Hamilton Libraries fight over banning certain books in the children’s section. Luckily, they managed to uproot at least 2 people that seemed to be causing issues but its really sad to see that there most likely will be further attacks to the library. I should also mention that these 2 individuals that were ousted are now running political campaigns? Laura Alerding is running for State House Representative of District 29 and Micah Beckwith is running for Lieutenant Governor of Indiana.

    Maybe its time I come out of the woodwork and start offering the books that they are so intent on banning because I am so tired of these bullies that have nothing better to do with their life.

  25. I volunteer at a very basic English as a second language program sponsored by the Immigrant Welcome Center at the Eagle Branch of the Marion County Library for recent refugees and immigrants, some of whom have never gone to school and are not literate in their own native languages. I have never seen such eager learners! I suppose this program would also be shut down under the proposed legislation.

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