Episode Summary

John Chrastka of EveryLibrary joins us to discuss book bans and censorship, free speech and the First Amendment, political action for change, and how indie authors and book lovers can support the libraries that enrich their communities.

Episode Notes

John Chrastka is the executive director of EveryLibrary, the first nationwide political action committee for libraries, and the EveryLibrary Institute, a nonprofit research and training organization focused on the future of library funding. In this episode we’ll discuss book bans and censorship, free speech and the First Amendment, political action for change, and how indie authors and book lovers can support the libraries that enrich their communities.

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Kevin Tumlinson [00:00:01]:
You just tuned into the hippest way to start and grow your indie author career. Learn the ins, the outs, and all the all arounds of self publishing with the team from d two d and their industry influencing guests. You’re listening to Self Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital.

Jim Azevedo [00:00:27]:
And we’re live. Hello, everybody. Welcome to Self Publishing Insiders. I am Jim Azevedo. I lead corporate communications here at Draft2Digital. And today, it is my honor and my privilege to welcome with us John Kraska, the founder and, the founder and executive director of Every Library. Now, John, I’m I’m gonna read through some of your background here, and you have such an interesting background, but I’m gonna hit just some of the top level points here. So the, Every Library folks, if you haven’t heard of Every Library, it is the 1st nationwide political action committee, political action committee for libraries, which John founded way back in 2012.

Jim Azevedo [00:01:13]:
John is also the coauthor of winning elections and influencing politicians for library funding and before the ballot, building political support for library funding. I also wanna mention that, in 2014, John was named a mover and shaker by the library journal. Anybody who is in the realm of libraries or who knows Library Journal knows that if you’re named a mover and shaker, you pretty much arrived. In 2022, John was named Chicagoan of the Year by the Chicago Tribune.

John Chrastka [00:01:50]:
What one what one of them, Jim. Not not not to suggest I was it. Just one of them. There was a group of us, but it was great.

Jim Azevedo [00:01:57]:
Okay. Okay. Okay. I’ll and then in 2023, you’re named a notable by Publishers Weekly for your work opposing book bans and censorship. So, John, here we are in National Library Week. Thank you so much for joining us.

John Chrastka [00:02:15]:
Jim, you are you are a very kind host, and your community is very warm and welcoming. I see you in the chat already. Thank you, team. It’s nice to be here.

Jim Azevedo [00:02:22]:
Yeah. Well, we’re glad to have you here. John, before we’ve got a lot to talk about today, and I’m so glad to see everybody in the comment section already. We’ve got some important things to discuss today, and I hope that our audience you guys, when you’re listening in, if you have any questions pop up, please add them to the comment section, and John and I will try to get to each and every single one of those. But we kind of but before we dive into the nitty gritty, John, wanted to go over a few stats with you

John Chrastka [00:02:52]:

Jim Azevedo [00:02:53]:
And our viewers here. So I thought I would lead off first by, by mentioning a quote from Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly, who’s been covering some of these stories around book challenges and book bans lately. John says, quote, more than 3 years into a historic surge in attempted book bans, the organized political attack on libraries and the freedom to read continue to grow. Now some stats here from The New York Times that I wanna mention here. I think this was, Alexander Alter or Elizabeth Harris Harris from the New York Times who said, the number of unique titles targeted for censorship in 2023 surpassed 4200 4200 titles, up by an astounding 65% over 2022. Now get this. In the last 20 years since the American Library Association’s been tracking this stuff, prior to 2021, the average number of titles that were challenged, in any given year was just 273.

John Chrastka [00:04:02]:

Jim Azevedo [00:04:02]:
The highest number during that span, that’s the span of the last over the last 20 years, the highest number during that span was 393 in a single year. So if we add up all the challenge books during that time, during the last 20 years, it was just 3,637, which is over 600 fewer than were challenged in 2023 alone. So, John, what’s going on? What’s happening out there?

John Chrastka [00:04:34]:
Jim, it is the, it is a perfect storm. 20 years ago, there was no Internet to organize people. There were attempts, to to to, see, either movements based on morality, movements based on on protection of of kids, theoretically, protection of kids, movements that are anti free speech. They all existed in silos from each other. There might have been a mimeograph or Xerox newsletter going around in some of these organizations that they were well organized. There might have been individual actors, but what we have now is a confluence of many different movements, that have come together, and have been given permission by political actors and been weaponized in many cases, as politicized or performative activities to go after these books. What we know very clearly from where we’re sitting here at every library Yeah. Is that these performative and politicized actions are intended to do well, you have to understand where where the attacks are coming from in order to respond properly.

John Chrastka [00:05:40]:
Yeah. K. They they’re intended to do one of a couple of different things. 1 is to, use the book, censorship activity as it’s really a form of discrimination. There are political actors out there who know very, very clearly that it is easier to go after a book than it is to go after a person or a group. Okay. And yet by saying something is obscene, which is one of the the reasons that you can constantly well, you know, remove something from the library. There’s a big difference between unconstitutional censorship and constitutional censorship we can get to later, but the idea that something is obscene, something is criminal, is a way to label people, whether it’s anti LGBTQ or anti black and brown.

John Chrastka [00:06:25]:
There’s also uses of, censorship activity, discrimination activity like this that’s intended to, discredit the profession of that of of librarianship, to discredit the institution of public libraries, to go after educators, and we see that not only in book bans, but also some bills that have happened over the last two legislative sessions. They would criminalize, truly criminalize under under state state level obscenity laws, educators, that could be art teachers, English teachers, nurses, school nurses, counselors, school librarians, and or criminalize public libraries. And why don’t you state they’ve tried to criminalize museums again? You know? This is like the eighties all over again when it came to Yeah. Attacks on NEA and NEH. And, I mean, these are not new, Jim, but they’re weaponized in ways, and they’re able to be organized across, divides because of I mean, if we were organizing a movement right now, we’d be on StreamYard together. You know? Yeah. Yeah. True.

Jim Azevedo [00:07:28]:
So it it it’s not just a few concerned mothers out there who are, you know, carrying some charges around. This is a

John Chrastka [00:07:37]:
nationwide organized political movement. According to the the research we’ve done, and our media partner most recently on some good survey work with the American public was, Book Riot, who I’m sure that some of your your network, you know, spent some time with. Yeah. They’re great. Kelly Jensen over there at Book Riot has done tremendous original reporting on on this topic, and we did some original survey work where we asked parents, every library institute, which is our our nonprofit side, every library, the political side. On our on our nonprofit side, with Book Riot, we asked American parents, do do you agree with these so called moms for whatever? You know, the the the purple parents, the the the mantle of of parental rights is has been picked up and and and is you is being used as a crudgel, by these special interest groups. So we said, okay, parents. We asked thousands of parents.

Jim Azevedo [00:08:28]:
What what what across the entire country?

John Chrastka [00:08:30]:
Across the entire country, what do you think, feel, and believe about about public libraries, school libraries, and and librarianship in relation to to book bans and censorship? What how does it impact the culture of reading? How does it impact the culture of learning? Somewhere between, 16% 22% of parents came back and said that they’re comfortable with some form of censorship. You know, this is to say that this is a a totally fringe movement now, 3 years into it, as Andrew’s article, you know, Publisher Weekly said

Jim Azevedo [00:09:02]:

John Chrastka [00:09:02]:
Maybe if we’d asked that that question 3 years ago, it would’ve been under 8%, under 7%. We asked that question 2 years ago, and it was only 12. You know? It’s growing now. It’s at least 16% of of parents, who are comfortable with the idea that the way that we protect our kids from something that’s fairly abstract in many cases, is by censoring or even criminalizing, the the, the culture of reading, the culture of learning through libraries and schools. It’s it’s flabbergasting to me, Jim, that we’ve gotten to this point, but I look at but I look at what’s happened in in the health space. You know? I look at I look at what what’s happened, in the election administration space as well and and don’t think that we’re somehow or another special or unique anymore.

Jim Azevedo [00:09:50]:
Wow. Why is obscenity such a key term? And may and can you even define it in the first place? Can anybody define it, what it means in in a legal sense?

John Chrastka [00:09:59]:
So obscenity is a is a criminal, action. It is in the criminal code in all 50 states. Obscenity is defined really primarily at the state level when it comes to to identifying what is obscene and distribution of obscene materials and things like that. It it’s a it’s it’s in the criminal code, along with in at the federal level, title 18 largely around telecommunications. There hasn’t been a federal prosecution in a generation, on obscenity, and that the obscenity cases that have been brought against books recently, there’s 2, that have happened in the last 18 months. There was one in Virginia, where Barnes and Noble was being sued, and there was one in Michigan where a school district was being sued, specifically over obscenity allegations about certain certain key titles. Mhmm. In both of those cases, the judges, when an actual judge gets a chance to adjudicate these these issues, actual judges say that these are not obscene.

John Chrastka [00:11:01]:
These are not criminally defined, titles. Sure. Virginia dismissed it out of hand. The Michigan case in Kent School District there, Kent County School District said no as well. There’s a test for obscenity, in There is. Yeah. There is. The supreme court, supreme court put it together in 1973.

John Chrastka [00:11:23]:
It’s it’s been so common over the last 50 years that it’s in the background. You know? Right. But the test is called the Miller test, and the Miller test was was, based on a case, you know, like you hear about, you know, Roe v Wade that that that there’s a case number, but the name is the Miller test.

Jim Azevedo [00:11:41]:

John Chrastka [00:11:41]:
And Miller asks, judges and juries to look at whether or not the the book is obscene across 3 different definitions. One is about whether or not it’s pervasively vulgar. The other is whether or not it violates current state law. And the third, fundamentally, is whether or not the the the the material in question, the book, the the art, the movie, has any artistic or literary merit. And on those three criteria, like I said, judges you know, prosecutors don’t pick up the case. Judges judges throw them out because you don’t find riseable to the definition of obscenity materials in public libraries or schools. They’re they’re not collected. And while there’s a lot of of things that have adult themes, those aren’t criminal.

John Chrastka [00:12:30]:
Adult themes are not criminal behavior. The definitions are are are there. They’ve been there since I mean, in some states, the the definitions are on what’s obscene. They’ve been there the Kennedy administration, not just the the latter part of the Nixon years. You know?

Jim Azevedo [00:12:44]:
Okay. Yeah. I wanna go back. I don’t want to, like, just revisit what we talked about already, but I wanna go back to the last 3 years in particular

John Chrastka [00:12:53]:

Jim Azevedo [00:12:53]:
Just because of that of that spike. And granted, I 100% agree with you on the Internet and services like StreamYard and the ability to share information. Mhmm. But still, what what’s what’s happened in the last 3 years in particular? Is it because we have an upcoming election?

John Chrastka [00:13:10]:

Jim Azevedo [00:13:12]:
Is it a little bit of everything?

John Chrastka [00:13:13]:
A little bit of everything. There’s a there’s been a historic movement to try and end sex ed and, the teaching of gender studies, and gender and sex are are key drivers. You’ll see it in the the PEN America data that we also help collect and support. Gender, sex ed, the teaching of sexuality, the idea that that, you know, our neighbors, us, who are gay or queer or trans should exist, can exist, that that vector of attack, has been has been taken to a new new extreme. Absolutely. And the fact that there is an opportunity for politicians and political movements to, go after a book and use it as a way to build their base. I mean, the the the the, Virginia and Texas gubernatorial races in 2021 rediscovered censorship as a way to to build a campaign.

Jim Azevedo [00:14:13]:
They’re saying that it’s worked, that this is a political tool weapon that’s worked in the past, and they’re gonna they’re gonna rip that page out of their play out of the previous playbook and use it again.

John Chrastka [00:14:23]:
Yep. In 2023, the the the fellow who who ran for governor of Louisiana and won, he was the current attorney general during his campaign, His first campaign, event to run for governor of the state of Louisiana, one of the 50 states in the United States of America, was to was to publish a a report called protecting innocence. There was a hit job on public libraries, made all sorts of allegations about criminal activity, and then put an asterisk on it saying it’s not really criminal because it doesn’t it’s not riseable to the milli test. And then he campaigned on it, and 1 one one he’s the governor of Louisiana right now. He he had a tip line, Jim, that was set up so that citizens could report bad books at their libraries. The fellow who’s running for governor of Missouri right now who’s the current secretary of state, he’s the state librarian according to the constitution of the state of Missouri, He has has promulgated rules that would be very restrictive on the right to read in in public libraries, as a component of his campaign for governor. I mean, politicians and political actors I mean, Jim, I run a political committee for libraries. You said that 15 minutes ago.

John Chrastka [00:15:38]:
You know? Full disclosure, I mean, we’re a political action committee for libraries. I I mean, the the first amendment, the constitution, and support for it lines up with our political agenda. The 14th amendment, when it comes to pull to to civil rights and, equal protection lines up with our agenda. If you’re on the other side of those issues, I mean, you’re gonna wanna find something that you can campaign on and to say that our children somehow or another are being turned into criminals or monsters. I mean, there was a campaign in, Michigan, at the Patmos Library that your your readers might be familiar with, or your your listeners might be familiar with. The the Patmos library was on the ballot in the fall of 2022 to renew their basic funding levy. And the campaign against the renewal, like, the campaign to to close the library came from a group of frustrated book banners who said, and I’m quoting here, it’s really disturbing, but I’m quoting here, get rid of the groomers and pedophiles, say no to the library. I mean, this this kind of rhetoric works in terms of motivating groups of of, politicized activists.

John Chrastka [00:16:51]:
It’s tragic. That campaign actually they they did lose, in in August of of 2022. They lost again in November of 2022. We were able to help in in a couple of different ways. Actually, there’s there’s some very, very good fundraising that was done across the literary and library community. Nora Roberts, for 1, as a big name, put in some some serious support there. Yeah. Helped keep the library open.

John Chrastka [00:17:19]:
We spent a year, Jim, working on on resetting the conversation with community, de escalating that that hateful rhetoric, talking to people about what they really believe about the right to read, and we’re able to pass it in Okay. November 2023. That library’s gonna stay open. But

Jim Azevedo [00:17:36]:
John I’m sorry. Go ahead, please.

John Chrastka [00:17:37]:
But but the fact that we’ve done to this point is is kind of amazing in America right now.

Jim Azevedo [00:17:42]:
Yeah. I’m I’m I mean, hopefully, my jaw isn’t on the desk right now because you’re you’re informing us about all these things that are happening today in 2024, and I don’t know. Hopefully, my mouth isn’t agape or I’m constantly shaking my head, but it’s hard to believe. I mean, are these folks are they just going after public libraries? Are they attacking schools at the elementary level as well? And Yep.

John Chrastka [00:18:09]:
It’s higher

Jim Azevedo [00:18:10]:
on the higher education academic libraries too? Is that across the board?

John Chrastka [00:18:14]:
Yeah. The the cadence of of I wanna answer your question accurately in in a couple of different ways. One is that Okay. The k twelve environment schools are are actually more under attack than than public libraries are. We spend a lot of time on the school side as well with education alliances like we do with, local public library alliances. Yeah. But on the school side, the the cadence of attacks against the right to read, the attacks against students, for their identity, for their humanity, the the attacks against teachers and other education professionals as well as the structure of public education cannot be understated, Jim. It’s it’s an extraordinary moment when they’re going after the the future of public education as well as the dignity of of those students and their ability to to read stories about themselves and get accurate information.

John Chrastka [00:19:09]:
On the public library side, it’s it’s happening all the time. On the academic library side, it’s growing. There are the academy is not immune from what’s happening in the rest of society, and it’s very important for for folks who are involved in higher ed and in academic libraries to be more than vigilant, to be active about why the first amendment on campus is so important, and why the, the the culture of learning, the the opportunities for scholarship are so necessary to have without a fear or favor based approach to collections.

Jim Azevedo [00:19:50]:
John, what would you say to somebody like me? I’m I’m out here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and somebody like me might say, well, you know, that that stuff’s happening in the deep south or that would never happen here. What would you say to someone like that?

John Chrastka [00:20:08]:
Well, if you It sounds like this is spreading. So the if you’re truly in a in a place that’s not experiencing the problems, then what we need is your help with other places. You know? K. This is a a situation that if you believe, like we do, that the the right to read is a is a key element of of society Mhmm. Democratic society, civil society, the progressive ideals, then joining it in with an organization like every library, or another, anti censorship group, I think, is important. We put to work our value system right now in a couple of key ways that we help we hope people who who can join us can do. We have a a platform called fight for the first. Fight for the first dot org is a, it’s basically change dot org for libraries.

John Chrastka [00:21:04]:
Now we we’ve set this up so that if there’s a problem thank you for putting that up. There’s a problem, in a local community, somebody can can say, we have a problem. We’d like some some assistance. Here’s what our problem looks like. We can platform that call to actions very quickly. What we do is train, coach, and guide and support the good people who are in that community, who wanna stand with either the library or for the first amendment depending on how things are going. And then we need folks who are outside of the zone. You know, if you’re in it, man, if you’re in if you’re in the trenches on this, it’s exhausting.

John Chrastka [00:21:38]:
It’s hard. It is, it’s community organizing. It’s union organizing. It’s the the fights are akin to the anti nuclear, you know, reproductive justice, you know, civil rights fights. I mean, these people are in it. Yeah. So if you’re outside of that zone, what we do as a national organization is we put money to work from donors, from vendor donors, individual donors. We’ve kind of a Bernie Sanders model for our donor base, and we help them we help them, you know, make their voice heard.

John Chrastka [00:22:09]:
We spend money on every single campaign advertising on social. Nothing goes viral anymore. You know, if anybody’s doing marketing knows, you gotta be able to put that out in front of folks. You know? Yeah. And we we show up. We we show up, sometimes with, direct donations. Right now, we’re doing a fundraising drive in Prattville, Alabama, where the the library director and 4 members of the staff quit rather than implement unconstitutional bigoted policies on the part of that library board. I mean, these this is how we do it when there’s when when you’re in a when you’re in a green zone, like like a San Francisco, if you’re in a hot zone, though, like a Prattville, what you can do if you haven’t if you’re just coming around to understanding the situation is, again, a fight for the first kind of framework.

John Chrastka [00:22:58]:
Join in. You know? Join in. We’ve got opportunities for people to articulate, you know, a a value system when it comes to the watchdog work. We’ve got our opportunities for people to be guard dogs for the first amendment, for the library, and for the schools. That’s really, you know, hardcore activism. Yeah. There’s there’s a chance for people to bird dog this digitally. I mean, Jim, we’re trying to give them different pathways to to put their

Jim Azevedo [00:23:23]:
Yeah. It sounds like you’re you you’ve got a ton of resources out there. If somebody wanted to organize, a group or a committee, they can come to you. They can come to every library and just ask for some help, and you’ll say, okay. Well, here are some resources. Do you need us to come out and and train your people?

John Chrastka [00:23:40]:
Yep. That’s us. I mean, that that that’s exactly what we do, and we’ve been doing that for 12 years in different ways. We started off as you as you mentioned before doing local library ballot measures. We’ve done this, in defense of school librarian jobs.

Jim Azevedo [00:23:53]:

John Chrastka [00:23:53]:
We do this all the time on negotiations with city councils and county governments on library funding and school board funding. And this one on on the fight for the first, I mean, it’s not just the first amendment freedom freedom of speech issues, though, by the way. It’s a whole cloth approach to the First Amendment. The right to petition is very important. The right to assemble, and the right to be heard to your government is absolutely necessary. Freedom of and from religion, we’re trying to work in in support of, of public libraries as part of the public sphere, in what’s, essentially a very evolving space around religion in the public sphere, and the freedom of the press and the transparency issues. I mean, we’re we are approaching this. I’m not saying just the freedom of speech.

John Chrastka [00:24:38]:
It’s foundational, but also from that civil rights perspective as well because if we see censorship as a form of erasure and discrimination, then we have to act against it in an anti discriminatory way.

Jim Azevedo [00:24:52]:
Yeah. I mean, if it’s gonna be systemic on the discrimination side, then it’s gotta be a systemic and organized and then fight back.

John Chrastka [00:24:58]:
That’s right. So, yeah, we’re actually working in a couple of states right now on new legislation, that would support public libraries primarily. Schools on civil rights is a different framework and it’s a it’s a whole other episode of this, but the, the idea, within, model legislation that we helped produce called the Libraries for All Act, Delaware has a has a version of it right now that’s just passed the House, in the Senate, there’s a version of it that’s embedded in Vermont legislation. There’s several other states that we’ve helped advise on this and a few other states that we haven’t who are also doing this, where how can we utilize, civil rights protections, public accommodation laws as a justification for bringing materials into a public library? The first amendment really is about what can we keep, and you can keep things that are not criminal. But why do we bring it in the library in the first place? Why do we bring it in the library in the first place is often that it’s interesting to the majority. Yep. You know, it’s comfortable to the majority, but what happens when we are looking at a book, say, about a family with 2 same sex parents, and it’s it’s a it’s a family. That book is is about a family that’s legal.

John Chrastka [00:26:14]:
Mhmm. You know, post gay marriage in this society. Okay? Yeah. Interracial marriage. I mean, let’s just talk about families for a minute. That we’re we’re in a society that, is well, these are legal humans and arrangements of humans. Okay? So the books that we have should not just be comfortable to the majority, but they should be relevant to those protected minority classes under civil rights law, and I think it’s a revolutionary approach, Jim. I’m glad to see a couple states are are considering it because what we don’t need to do with our right to read laws is weaponize the first amendment against itself.

John Chrastka [00:26:51]:
You know? I’m not interested in seeing more banned BooksRead banning banned book bans by banning book bans bills. Those are how do we affirm the dignity of the writer and the reader Yes. In that conversation?

Jim Azevedo [00:27:05]:
Wow. And, John, I mean, we’ve kinda touched upon upon the the themes and the topics that continuously are being discriminated against or continuously are being challenged. But can you run through some of those again just to make sure that we’re not leaving any particular group out? Sure.

John Chrastka [00:27:25]:
Well, we see anti LGBTQ, plus

Jim Azevedo [00:27:28]:
Year in and year out.

John Chrastka [00:27:29]:
Year in and year out. The, the the movement around, don’t say gay, you know, is manifest in in censorship and discrimination. Same way, in in anti CRT rhetorically, anti CRT is anti black and brown and communities of color. The the history of race and racial, unrest in animosity in this country is a source of grave shame, and so we’d rather censor it than than deal with it. You know?

Jim Azevedo [00:27:55]:
It’s never happened.

John Chrastka [00:27:56]:
No. It never happened. Yeah. So the, and, issues of of, anti public sector work, anti education are the censorship activity might be about a book that’s been around forever. You know? Like, the the kill a mockingbird type books, the it’s the I mean, Walter the farting dog, which is a classic as far as I’m concerned. You know? Yeah. The these BooksRead, they’re they’re not going after that for any other reason than to discredit educators and education, librarians, and public libraries.

Jim Azevedo [00:28:33]:
I think we’ve all seen titles that we’ve read in high school or or even college where we’re like, what? Like, how did you possibly ban that book?

John Chrastka [00:28:40]:
Absolutely. So the the those different vectors of attack together, we have to remind ourselves that there’s also a movement, that is again trying to eliminate the teaching of sex ed in schools and gender studies. It is very conservative, it is morally driven, and I don’t understand why you’d wanna have your children not know who they are. You know? Yeah. So, and you take all that together with the politicized and performative and, book attacks that are really just used to to rile up the base. You know, we we see that every presidential cycle, we see that every gubernatorial cycle where there’s a fight going on, that kind of pernicious politics should have no place in education or in public libraries. Wow. Wow.

Jim Azevedo [00:29:32]:
John, is it just the books that are in danger, or are we talking about librarians, like, people who are also in harm’s way? Maybe libraries are being vandalized, and are librarians in danger? I mean, have there been attacks on people?

John Chrastka [00:29:55]:
There have been a tremendous uptick in threats to both the institution and the humans who work there on the public library side. There’s always a threat matrix in in k 12, and and being a teacher today in America is very difficult. Being a lot of school librarian in America right now, is very difficult, but the the attacks, have not been to there’s a case here or there where there’s been some graffiti work or some defacement. There have been situations where a colleague of of mine, watched the book, drop in the morning, 1 morning, in the American West. Let’s just say that. It’s not all in the South, Jim. It’s not all in the West either. It’s happening everywhere.

John Chrastka [00:30:42]:
But once the book the book dropped in and and opened it up, and there was several books that had been shot with a shotgun. Okay? Yeah. The number of bomb threats that have been lodged against libraries, we’re we’re working on some tracking right now around that. This is not unusual for the public sector. Unfortunately, again, election administration, election clerks of elections, they’re feeling it. On the health side, social workers, I mean, the idea that there’s been some level of permission to to make these kinds of personal or terroristic threats against public sector workers. And again, public sector workers you know, public librarians are public sector workers. School school libraries are educators.

John Chrastka [00:31:29]:
The fact that there’s been permission given by our political leaders from certain circles to go after these people and these institutions, is a return to a kind of of, domestic violence, civil violence that I think it needs to be addressed in very, very strong ways by law enforcement, needs to be addressed in very strong ways by groups like the ATF and the FBI. I mean, this this should not be taken lightly. We do not even we don’t need this to be escalated.

Jim Azevedo [00:32:02]:
I I so well, this probably is the conversation for this, but I, personally, I just wanna understand why. Like, I just I don’t get it. Maybe it’s, I wanna understand from a compassionate perspective, why are some of these groups feeling threatened? I took my little girl, you know, during pride to go to a reading you know, go to one of the drag readings. It was a blast. She had a lot of fun. I think she was only 3 or 4 years old at the time. Mhmm. And I remember the reader asked asked, you know, do any little girls or little boys in here have 2 mommies or 2 daddies? And, you know, some hands went up.

Jim Azevedo [00:32:39]:
Mhmm. And I’ll never forget, my little girl turned around and she looked at me, and then she looked at the at the reader and said, well, I only have 1 mommy and 1 daddy. And it was so cute and so innocent. But then they think about some other communities who are trying to educate their young, but then they get, you know, the Proud Boys or somebody will come in and burst through the doors and and try to end those types of educational events. And it it just blows my mind.

John Chrastka [00:33:07]:
Yeah. I mean, the the to our for a drag queen story time in San Francisco is is a lot, easier perhaps than some other parts, you know, parts of Sure. Of America. And, for a library to to to do a directory and story time spontaneously without any preparation for its community might actually not be a smart move. It takes some time to have those conversations. If the, if the, From a safety perspective. Yeah. From a safety perspective.

John Chrastka [00:33:35]:
But also from a community identity perspective. K. The if a drag queen story time is, you know I mean, there’s there’s I mean, San Francisco. You know? I’ve I’ve been to all kinds of different things when I visited San Francisco. It’s great fun. You know? Yeah. But there are some communities where the only gay person that somebody might know was somebody’s nephew who left town when he graduated high school. You know? So I I have to say that that there are times when the library community might be pushing the envelope a little bit more than it needs to in certain places, or too quickly? How do we even dialogue about neighborliness? How do we have a dialogue about live and let live? How do we how do we have a dialogue about the fact this is a public library and not a not a sacred space or a church community? Those kinds of dialogues have to happen in America.

Jim Azevedo [00:34:26]:
That’s a really interesting perspective, especially from where you sit.

John Chrastka [00:34:29]:
Mhmm. Well, I mean, we’re we’re we’re interested in, programming that not only edifies, but also challenges. And edification is nice, but edification is discomfort. Yeah. Let’s challenge ourselves. But having those discussions about where do we start from with this local place, I’m not admonishing anybody who’s put one on before, but I think we’ve we we might have been surprised about how uncomfortable most of America is. And let’s how do we move through through dialogue and discussion, through through the the the the action of reading, the action of writing, the action of sharing. How do we move in into understanding and empathy?

Jim Azevedo [00:35:09]:
I love it. And I I’m the first to admit that I might be taking it for granted given where I where I live or Well and I’m

John Chrastka [00:35:15]:
not I’m not pushing back on you at all, man. Let’s go.

Jim Azevedo [00:35:17]:
Oh, I understand.

John Chrastka [00:35:18]:
A good time. You

Jim Azevedo [00:35:19]:
know? I wanna bring up this comment because it reminds me of a question that I meant to ask you earlier. Natalie, thank you for your comment. She says, I may be in Sweden, but I’m all for fighting for the rights of authors in the US. They’ll be able to write what they want and have the books in all shops and libraries without restriction. Mhmm. Thank you for that comment, Natalie. And I I brought it up because is is this problem of challenges and censorship. I’m sure it’s not just a domestic problem here in the US.

Jim Azevedo [00:35:51]:
How widespread across the globe is it?

John Chrastka [00:35:53]:
We’re seeing, the United States either is a leading exporter or we’re in dialogue with other nationalistic groups, or other special interest groups in in other countries, and there’s a circle, you know, there’s a feedback circle. I look at I look at Reagan and Thatcher, okay, just as a as a political example. They they they helped each other become better at their particular brand of of conservatism, the same way Clinton and Blair had a virtuous circle about their version of progressivism. We see, we see in the states an either a mode of exporting going on to Canada, and, Ireland and, some other parts of of western democracies where the techniques of individuals who have strong concerns around parental control or parental oversight, They have strong concerns about morality. They’ve learned from the American playbook, and so we’re exporting some of those ideas to some of these other countries. Ireland in particular, the public libraries are are under siege there right now. They’re handling it, I think, better than we have in the states. Perhaps they’ve they’ve they’ve learned a little bit from us, but I don’t think so.

John Chrastka [00:37:11]:
I think that the the framework around human rights and civil rights in, and the right to read in the EU is much more, focused on on human beings than than in the United States, which is focused on laws not being made, But if we’re also looking at this as a as a feedback cycle and a and a loop, there are authoritarian regimes in the west, like in in, I mean, Hungary, for example, where we, I think, have learned from them, about how to utilize these wedge issues around identity politics. The idea that there there should be, no unconstitutional censorship in the public sphere is is not you is not uniquely American, but the particulars of how it’s done in America were on the first amendment and around due process issues, is I wouldn’t count counsel anyone living outside of the United States to follow the US first amendment playbook because it’s not applicable under your your your local laws. That said, the the, the opportunity to see the lowest number of barriers to free expression, both as a writer, as well as a as a reader, I think is is what really distinguishes, functioning democracies in the west from other kinds of regimes.

Jim Azevedo [00:38:33]:
Fantastic comment. No. We’re quite lucky here, to be on the front lines of the this democratization of publishing, you know, with with what we do here at Draft2Digital. And we’ve been able to to witness this tsunami of diverse voices kinda flood the entire industry, and we’re very proud of that. So what can our what can our community do? What can indie authors and publishers do, themselves, within their communities? Mhmm. What can they do with their reading communities, with their fans to help protect themselves and their fellow authors?

John Chrastka [00:39:11]:
Sure. So if you’re in the hot zone and you have the the ability and the agency and the liberty to do this yourself because not everybody does. Okay? Not everybody can can can can become an activist. But if there is something going on in your neck of the woods and you can stick your neck out, let’s do it. You know? Having authors, and writers and creators and the creative economy show up to these conversations, whether it’s in a particular place saying, I’m from here too. This is why I write. This is what I’m writing about. These are the humans I’m writing about.

John Chrastka [00:39:42]:
And at the state level where there are fights around, legislation and policy as well to say, hey. I’m a hometown author. You know? I’m a I’m a home state author. If you’ve if you have, a legitimate voice, you need to to to speak it. And so, you know, we can help, make some of those connections, some of those pathways happen on these kind of campaigns. There’s other organizations out there that that spend more time with authors directly than we do, But if you’re in a green zone, a space where there’s less heat, describing, talking not just about your own work, and I know we’re all generous here on this call, Doug and Miro, but not just your own work, but the culture of reading, the culture of writing, the culture of creativity, the idea that that, books and literature and movies and other creative forms of expression exist, within the human condition of a civil society. You know, describing that to folks who might not be readers themselves without challenging them become a reader. Describing one of the things we try and do with on every rap point here we’re not trying to make people into users.

John Chrastka [00:40:53]:
We’re trying to meet people who want to be supporters and talk about why support is necessary for these institutions and these people who work there. We don’t require anybody to change their lifestyle to become a user of the library, nor should we have a litmus test about people, being more meritorious for being readers. They can consent I mean, we we wanna we help support a a big survey every 6 months in the United States called the Freckle project. On a Freckle project, asks a key question of American readers, which is where did you get that book? And that answer is fascinating. You can get it on our Every Library Institute site, under our research tab. Where did you get that book? But we know that, you know, Americans 9 out of 10 Americans utilize either for reading for pleasure, reading for work, reading for for answers, mostly reading for pleasure. 9 out of 10 of us do it every year, every day, every month. You know? Yep.

John Chrastka [00:41:52]:
So talking about the the the the joy of being a writer, the dignity of being a writer. I mean, those are absolutely necessary, because we have to remind people it’s not just all censorship. Yeah. And that there is something transformational about not just writing, but reading.

Jim Azevedo [00:42:13]:
100%. That’s beautiful. Let’s say that I am in a in a zone that’s a bit more difficult. Sure. How do I how do I start? Maybe maybe I’m a little afraid to to make my voice heard. Mhmm. What’s the best way to start? Should I should I come to everylibrary.org? And

John Chrastka [00:42:33]:
Yeah. Well, I mean, there we we currently we just put up our 98th no. Sorry. 89th. 89th, fight for the first campaign at a local level. It’s sometimes it’s one ZIP code. Jim, it’s it’s it’s I mean, sometimes it’s countywide. We have a few state organizations that we support and, Yeah.

John Chrastka [00:42:51]:
The Florida Freedom to Read Project, the Texas Freedom to Read Project, Alabama BooksRead Freely are are some some of those. Yeah. We would be happy to make connections. There is some strength in numbers here that that should not be underappreciated. There’s solidarity that happens, And if if somebody’s in a hot zone and they’re like, you know, I I would do this if if asked, I’m asking you now. You know, this is the time that you know, if you’re looking around like, why doesn’t anybody else? We we’d be happy to stand with you. We can onboard a campaign in a crisis situation or even in an inoculation situation. You know, not not everything’s a hot zone.

John Chrastka [00:43:32]:
Sometimes you you know it’s coming. Let’s let’s get ahead of it.

Jim Azevedo [00:43:34]:
Yeah. Yeah. We can

John Chrastka [00:43:35]:
get you up and running in 5, 10 minutes. We’d be happy to

Jim Azevedo [00:43:39]:
talking from an individual point of view or Yeah. From a live like, let’s say I’m I’m a librarian, and then a librarian can go here as as well and say, well, I’ve got me and 3 or 4 of my fellow librarians, and we’re concerned.

John Chrastka [00:43:54]:
The librarians themselves, yes. But the majority of I mean, we’re almost at a 100 campaigns. The majority are are humans who care. They’re they’re they’re civilians, if I may. You know?

Jim Azevedo [00:44:05]:
Okay. Yeah.

John Chrastka [00:44:06]:
It’s it’s parents. It’s, concerned citizens. It’s, everyday folks. It’s writers. It is it’s people who are who are affected personally, but also people who are compassionately engaged or or or engaged with some of the issues around the law. And there’s a lot of different reasons to come to a fight. And we we will be very happy to take the first amendment fans, the, the folks who are defending their own dignity or the dignity of their neighbors and family, or folks who just don’t want to see the whole place burn down. I mean Right.

John Chrastka [00:44:39]:
Civil civil society here, Jim, is a big deal. You know, what’s my hometown supposed to be like? What kind of country we’re supposed to be living in?

Jim Azevedo [00:44:48]:
Absolutely. And I get the sense from talking with you, John, is that, hey. Everything I’m in a green zone. Lada dah. Everything’s fine here. I don’t have to get involved. But after spending the last 45 minutes with you, it’s like, no. You I can’t stay quiet on this stuff when I’ve got friends and colleagues in other part of the country who are exactly the folks who are being targeted.

Jim Azevedo [00:45:11]:

John Chrastka [00:45:12]:
Well, a good place to get started if you’re in a green zone, as such, maybe you’re maybe you’re accidentally not. If you don’t mind, Jim, could you put the the action, dot every library dot org URL? Yeah. We have fight for the first, which is very much these tactical campaigns. Sorry. The front line? Nope. The action dot every library dot org 1.

Jim Azevedo [00:45:34]:
Come on, Jim.

John Chrastka [00:45:35]:
Don’t worry. You’re cool. So, folks, it’s action dot every library dot org. So we work with a number of state library associations as well as other state statewide actors like these, for new regroups. You can hit the this home page here and scroll down, and you’ll see that there are state level actions that are happening, that are focused on legislators. You know, the house and the senate and a lot of places are broken, and we’ve got several things happening in congress. So if you wanna just kind of dip your toe in, we’ve got ways to make your voice heard, without having to to become an activist. This is not slacktivism, mind you.

John Chrastka [00:46:13]:
This is legitimate. It’s it’s going out and saying to a member of congress, member state legislature, please, fix a problem. Please prevent a problem. Both of those are are are ways to make your voice heard.

Jim Azevedo [00:46:28]:
Fantastic. I I knew this was going to happen, and I say this every week. The conversation went by so quickly. We’re already at time. But, John, I mean, we don’t have to stop right this second. But I wanna ask you, is there anything else that you want to make sure that our viewers understand when it comes to book challenges, book bans, and and censorship?

John Chrastka [00:46:52]:
Sure. As as it goes, right now, the the I think we need to to reengage across libraries and across education, with the independent booksellers, the independent book publishers, and independent authors community. The the the conversation around what’s the role of of reading, how does the creative economy work, what is the the hope for outcomes of of reading in a very distracted digital age. You know? The the the things that we’ve been seeing, in terms of format changes, are not a problem. You know, the the move to ebooks, is a democratizing force in the marketplace. It’s a democratizing force in the ability for readers to access wide range of of of different writers, and publishers. These are good things. You know? The the movement away from from only print into digital is something that I think a lot of the the the library community is very invested in.

John Chrastka [00:48:03]:
There’s some policy issues around it, that are not just specific to a censorship conversation today. There’s there’s fundamental issues around around ownership, and around the right, the the the right to lend. You know, if we have, ebooks where, you can only I mean, I look at I look at at at ebooks as being one of the the the new states of matter. You know, like, in in in high school, we learned about, you know, gases and solids and liquids, and and then we learned about plasma at some point. We’re like, holy cow. There’s plasma too? There’s also ebooks. Because of the way that the law is set up, the reason that the public libraries exist is because of 2 things. 1 is, public tech a progressive tax policy that funds the common good.

John Chrastka [00:48:56]:
You know? Do we wanna put tax dollars to work on things as prosaic as libraries or parks or, you know, sewers? You know? Like, just Mhmm.

Jim Azevedo [00:49:07]:

John Chrastka [00:49:07]:
how do we wanna tax ourselves? The other reason that public libraries exist is because of the right to lend, and the right to lend as a component of the creative economy. The fact that libraries can buy, books, print books, but can’t always buy digital, I mean, I think we have to have that conversation, because without the right to lend, we we really lose a a a core component. I mean, copyright’s in the constitution. I believe that copyright is as a I mean, if we’re gonna talk about the first amendment, let’s talk about article 1 section section a clause 8. You know? Those big policy fights, Jim, I think need to be engaged by public libraries and independent authors and publishers with the same kind of veracity that we’re engaging this conversation about first amendment because there could be curbs constitutional curbs, unconstitutional curbs of our right to read, but if we could never get to it in the first place, if we can never get to to that creativity that your your community is is so interested in expressing, if we can never get to it as libraries, then the censorship conversation is actually moot. You know? How do we

Jim Azevedo [00:50:21]:
powerless, and we are not powerless as you have proven.

John Chrastka [00:50:25]:
Yes. Absolutely. It’s it’s 25 to 30% of the marketplace. It’s a marketplace of ideas. Yes. But let’s get let’s I’d like to I know plenty of librarians out there who’d like to buy more stuff.

Jim Azevedo [00:50:38]:
Yeah. And I know plenty of people who are in the audience right now who probably have 4 or 5 or more library apps on their phones

John Chrastka [00:50:44]:
That’s right. Who in just

Jim Azevedo [00:50:46]:
a book a week, if not more. That’s right. Sometimes a book sometimes it’s a book a day. So we’re all in this together.

John Chrastka [00:50:51]:
Yep. So I mean, If if the creative economy is is, to succeed, we need as low barrier as possible to to publishing and to reading.

Jim Azevedo [00:51:03]:
100%. Mhmm. Behind you all the way. Cool. We’re unfortunately at time.

John Chrastka [00:51:09]:
No. We really are.

Jim Azevedo [00:51:11]:
Yes. So, I wanna thank you, John, again, sincerely for spending some time with us today. We really appreciate you and what you’re doing. I wanna tell our audience that, as I remind you, every week, if you could please like, share, comment, and subscribe to Self Publishing Insiders, we would appreciate that so that we can get experts and advocates like John and his organization coming to come and join us. Mhmm. Also, folks, if you wouldn’t mind, be sure to bookmark dddlive.com so you can see every week who our guest is going to be and what the topic of discussion is going to be. And then finally, for those of you who may be dipping your toes into the self publishing waters for the first time, you can sign up for our free account at draft2digitaldot com to learn more about self publishing and where we would distribute your books into, including lots and lots of libraries that distribute your BooksRead public libraries around the globe. John, if you wouldn’t mind, hang up with me for a few more seconds here.

Jim Azevedo [00:52:13]:
You can kick back back in the green room. In the meantime, I’m gonna play a quick, 30 second commercial spot for D2D print. It’s our print on demand and publishing service.

John Chrastka [00:52:24]:
And to your community if I can say thank you.

Jim Azevedo [00:52:26]:
Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure. Well, we’re so glad you’re here, John. And everybody else out there, thanks again for tuning in. We’ll see you again next week. And, John, thanks a million to you once more.

Kevin Tumlinson [00:52:38]:
Ebooks are great but there’s something about having your words in print. Something you can hold in your hands, put on a shelf, sign for a reader. That’s why we created D2D Print, a print on demand service that was built for you. We have free beautiful templates to give your book a pro look, and we can even convert your ebook cover into a full wraparound cover for print. So many options for you and your books, and you can get started right now at draft2digital.com. That’s it for this week’s self publishing insiders with Draft2Digital. Be sure to subscribe to us wherever you listen to podcasts and share the show with your will be author friends, and start, build, and grow your own self publishing career right now at draft2digital.com.