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Protest is one thing, but attempts to disrupt library access can be unlawful

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts decries the rising tide of intolerance exemplified by assaults on our public libraries (“Librarians are targets in culture war,” Page A1, Feb. 6). Last month, together with our partners at GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, we addressed parallel efforts by a vocal minority to remove books from school libraries.

Like book bans in schools, interference with public library access can violate core free speech rights to receive and share information. It’s no accident that books and activities by Black and LGBTQ authors and participants are among the primary targets here. Attempts to intimidate those who offer, or seek to access, diverse programming may violate the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.


Libraries are critical resources that allow us to explore ideas and encounter new perspectives. While peaceful protest is protected, banning books and disrupting library access in order to suppress diverse ideas is misguided at best and, at worst, potentially unlawful.

We applaud local officials, librarians, and community members who persevere against these efforts at intimidation. We stand ready to partner with others to protect free speech and access to these vital institutions.

Ruth Bourquin

Senior and managing attorney

ACLU of Massachusetts