After it was reported that Texas leads the nation in challenging explicit books, the Harris County Commissioners Court approved a resolution to turn the Harris County Public Libraries system into a “Book Sanctuary.”

According to the resolution, becoming a ‘Book Sanctuary’ is meant to combat censorship, foster a “​discussion about challenged and diverse books to promote understanding and mutual respect,” and “defend the freedom to speak, think, and read.”

Prior to the resolution, a new report by the American Library Association was released showing that Texas is leading the nation in challenging explicit books in libraries. According to the report, Texas challenged more than 2,000 books in 2022. In second place was Florida, which has challenged nearly 1,000 fewer books than Texas.

“Let’s be clear, the books in question are vile and are designed to corrupt, confuse and ultimately destroy the minds of children,” said Brady Gray, president of Texas Family Project. “That is what Harris County intends to protect.”

House Bill 900—the READER Act—by State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco) prohibits school libraries from housing sexually explicit, vulgar, or educationally unsuitable materials. It also sets up state standards for keeping inappropriate sexual content out of all school libraries and classrooms.

The READER Act was passed during the 88th regular Legislative Session and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 13. It was set to go into effect September 1, but a federal judge put a temporary hold on it, allowing schools to keep sexually explicit books in their libraries.

The resolution compares the READER Act to the Jim Crow Era and Nazi Germany, pointing out where instances of ‘censorship’ and ‘book banning’ occurred in history.

“Whereas, book banning and censorship have existed throughout the history of written works, a practice most notably observed in the 1860s and Jim Crow Era when Southern states prohibited abolitionist literature, and in the 1930s when Nazis burned over 25,000 books seen as ‘un-German.” reads the resolution. “Harris County is committed to learning from past injustices and not repeating them.”

The resolution passed unanimously, with HCPL Director Ed Melton thanking the commissioners for recognizing HCPL as a ‘book sanctuary.’ 

“I think it’s very important for the library to be able to provide content and information to everyone, especially in the community that is so diverse in terms of Harris County, and the thing about books is that it’s always going to be a reflection of yourself or personal experience or a window that you can share an experience with someone else,” said Melton. 

Previously, Fort Worth Independent School District shut down school libraries after coming under fire over the summer when sexually explicit and lewd books were found within. FWISD reopened their libraries late last month but removed 118 books for further review to ensure they are “developmentally appropriate.”

In another instance, Katy ISD—also located in Harris County—has removed 14 additional books from its libraries after adding ‘nudity’ to the definition of inappropriate materials.

Conroe ISD, which removed 59 books from its library shelves last school year, is also continuing to review books and materials brought to their attention by concerned parents. 

“Texas Family Project is here for the fight,” said Gray. “HB 900 was a good start, but Texas has a long way to go to ensure we are protecting the innocence of our children from those that would seek to indoctrinate and groom them.” 

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.