Testimony to the New Jersey Assembly Education Committee about A3446, the “Freedom to Read Act”:

The New Jersey Assembly Education Committee is holding a hearing on A3446, “Freedom to Read Act,” on June 6, 2024. We have submitted written testimony alongside our colleagues at the New Jese Association of School Librarians (NJASL), endorsing this bill. A3446 aims to establish comprehensive guidelines and protections for library materials in both public school libraries and public libraries in New Jersey. 

The bill affirms the fundamental right to read and underscores the importance of providing access to diverse and inclusive materials. It ensures that library collections reflect multiple viewpoints and experiences, fostering an environment of free inquiry and expression. A3446 offers protections for school library media specialists and public librarians from harassment and defamation. It acknowledges their professional expertise in curating library collections and shields them from liability arising from their good faith efforts to comply with the bill’s provisions.

The bill requires the State Librarian to develop and maintain model policies for the curation of library materials within public libraries. It mandates that public and school libraries provide access to age-appropriate, diverse, and inclusive materials. This includes ensuring that students and community members can explore a wide range of perspectives and ideas.

A3446 establishes clear procedures for addressing requests for the removal of library materials. It requires the formation of review committees to evaluate such requests and mandates that challenged materials remain accessible until a final decision is reached.

Taken together, we think this approach will help prevent politicized censorship of library materials in New Jersey. By implementing these measures, New Jersey can uphold the principles of intellectual freedom, support the professional judgment of librarians, and ensure that its school libraries and public libraries remain inclusive and accessible to all.

EveryLibrary is co-hosting a petition to the Assembly about A3446 with NJASL at https://www.saveschoollibrarians.org/njaslbookbans

Our written testimony is included below.

June 6, 2024

To the Honorable Pamela R. Lampitt, Chair, the Honorable Sterley Stanley, Vice Chair, and Members of the Assembly Education Committee:

The EveryLibrary Institute, a national non-profit dedicated to supporting libraries and ensuring access to information for all, strongly supports Assembly Bill A3446, the “Freedom to Read Act.” This bill is critical in protecting the intellectual freedom of New Jersey's residents and reinforcing the essential role of both public and school libraries in our communities.

Assembly Bill A3446 establishes clear requirements for library materials in public school libraries and public libraries, ensuring diverse and inclusive collections that reflect a multitude of perspectives and experiences. By mandating the inclusion of age- and grade-appropriate, diverse, and inclusive materials, this bill supports students' educational development and fosters an environment of free inquiry and expression.

This bill also provides crucial protections for school library media specialists and librarians, shielding them from harassment and defamation as they perform their duties. These professionals are vital to helping students navigate information and develop critical thinking skills, and they deserve our full support and protection.

We endorse granting the State Library new responsibilities to establish a model policy for the curation of library materials within public libraries. By consulting with stakeholders and updating this model policy as necessary, the State Librarian will ensure that libraries maintain relevant, diverse collections that reflect the communities they serve. 

New Jersey is right to promote policies that prohibit the censorship of library materials and ensure that all students have access to a wide array of resources. Assembly Bill A3446 champions the values of intellectual freedom and diversity. The EveryLibrary Institute urges the Committee to advance Assembly Bill A3446 to help ensure that New Jersey's libraries continue to serve as inclusive and accessible resources for all community members.

Respectfully submitted,

John Chrastka  
Executive Director
The EveryLibrary Institute