Florida library threatened by GOP lawmaker over its 'I read banned books' cards
(Photo by Kennedy Library | Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0)

A Florida Republican legislator is publicly warning one of the state’s largest public libraries that it risks losing government funding over its defiant act of issuing library cards proclaiming, “I read banned books.”

The Broward County Library has begun making the cards optionally available to its more than 1 million cardholders as part of its pushback against efforts by to ban and restrict books. The cards include the library’s logo and a picture of flames, according to a report today in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

State Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) criticized the library and warned that it could produce what the newspaper termed “prompt retaliation,” the report said: "'I don’t want to see Broward County (penalized) for a political stunt, which is what it is’ LaMarca said Tuesday in a phone interview.”

“Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has the authority to veto individual items from the state budget, has not yet acted on the $117 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. LaMarca said a quick glance at the state budget shows it contains more than $53 million for libraries.”

But then LaMarca attempted to position himself as an ally of the library. Here’s how that was reported:

“’My concern is for Broward County. I’m always in support of the libraries and cultural arts,’ LaMarca said, adding he would argue against any attempt to reduce funding for any program in Broward County because of the cards or the county library’s promotion of them on Twitter. ‘It wasn’t a threat. I don’t have a veto pen,’ adding he was ‘not saying’ the governor would retaliate.’ But, he said, it was ill advised. ‘Just give them a regular library card.’”

The issuance of the special cards was just part of the library’s effort “to counter what the American Library Association, PEN America and other free-speech advocates warn is a dramatic increase in book bans and restrictions,” the Sun-Sentinel reported.

The library has established “Book Sanctuaries” in each of the counties’ 37 branch libraries, the report said. “They’re described as ‘designated areas where endangered stories will be protected and made accessible for exploration or check out.’”

Local officials have spoken out in praise of the library’s resistance to the book bans and restrictions, according to the Sun-Sentinel:

“County Commissioner Nan Rich, currently the county’s vice mayor, praised library director Allison Grubbs for the ‘banned books’ library cards and the book sanctuaries.

"'’This is about ensuring freedom and not eroding our democracy,’ Rich said, adding that banning books can lead to burning books, hence the fire on the cards. ‘We have history to show us what happens when you do things like this.’"

“Rich rejected LaMarca’s concern that the county’s action might inflame the governor," it says. "'It doesn’t matter whether you poke the bear or don’t poke the bear. He’s going to continue to move forward with his authoritarian ideas and erode our democracy.'"