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The book ban fight is intensifying in Llano, Texas

ANDREW LIMBONG, HOST:

The book ban fight is intensifying in Llano, Texas. County commissioners there held a meeting yesterday to decide whether to close their public library system entirely rather than restore 17 banned titles to their shelves as a federal judge had ordered. The commissioners decided to keep the libraries open for now. But this is all part of a longer battle that started in 2021, when library officials began removing titles from the shelves. Many dealt with themes of LGBTQ identity or race. Others included children's titles about farting. Tina Castelan was a librarian there at the time. She resigned under duress in 2022 and joins me now. Welcome. Hi, Tina.

TINA CASTELAN: Hello. Thank you for having me.

LIMBONG: So what's your reaction to this decision by the commissioners to keep the libraries open for now at least?

CASTELAN: So I think it's definitely a small win for us, but there is a long road ahead of us. And it's going to take a lot of work in the community coming together to explain to the commissioners just how important this library system is for all of us.

LIMBONG: For people who aren't familiar with, like, the list of books that are being disputed, can you tell me about a few of the titles?

CASTELAN: Yes. So most of them are actually young adult, in the teen section. So they include books like "Caste," books like "My Life As A Transgender Teen," "Gabi, A Girl In Pieces," the butt and fart books, as they're - they've been known as.

LIMBONG: Well, when you say butt and fart books, you mean like that book, like, "I Need A New Butt" - right? - pretty innocent children's book stuff.

CASTELAN: Yes. So...

LIMBONG: Yeah.

CASTELAN: Yes. So all three - I think there's the three butt books, and then there's a couple of fart books. There's, like, "Larry The Farting Leprechaun," I think, like, a heart - something about a heart that farts and a snowman and something else.

LIMBONG: Who farts, right?

CASTELAN: Yes, who farts. Yes.

LIMBONG: I understand you've been going to the library in Llano since you were 6 - right? - before going on to work there. But then you - eventually you resigned. What led to that?

CASTELAN: Yes. So the library itself was receiving phone calls from people calling us Nazis, saying that we're burning books, calling us, like, pedophiles, groomers, just all of this really negative attention. And the county had pretty much said, like, yeah, we hear it. We see it. But just ignore it. Deal with it. And so I just didn't feel very supported, and I didn't feel like it was worth me staying and losing my sanity over.

LIMBONG: But you're still in the community. You still go to the library, right?

CASTELAN: Oh, yeah.

LIMBONG: What does Llano stand to lose if the libraries do, in fact, close down?

CASTELAN: Oh, we stand to lose so much. I mean, the Llano library is kind of the center point, and it's where you can learn how to, like, homestead and kind of survival skills, how to can things. There was a whole seed library where you could check out seeds, and you weren't required to, like, bring anything back. You just could check them out and go plant them in your garden. They've got crafternoons (ph), Wi-Fi, I mean, even just a place that - if it's too hot or your kid is bored and they don't know what to do, there are games. There's puzzles. There's movies. It's a place where you could just sit there - no worries, no questions asked.

LIMBONG: Tina Castelan is a former librarian with the Llano County Library System in Texas. Tina, thanks so much.

CASTELAN: Thank you so much. Y'all have a great day.

LIMBONG: You, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF MORGAN WALLEN SONG, "LAST NIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.