In fall 2022, Amanda Jones, a school librarian in Livingston Parish, La., made headlines when she filed a defamation suit against two men who had targeted her with a campaign of harassment after she spoke briefly at a public meeting in defense of the freedom to read. Jones has since become the face of librarian resistance against a yearslong, politically organized book-banning surge in the U.S.

In August, Bloomsbury will publish That Librarian: The Fight Against Book Banning in America, Jones’s debut memoir, which tells the personal story of her fight for the freedom to read, and against the men who targeted her. PW recently caught up with Jones, who will be speaking and signing books at the 2024 ALA Annual Conference, to talk about her story.

Congratulations on the book—though I presume you wish you didn’t have to write it?

Yes, one of my friends early on told me I should at least write my story for myself, so I began jotting down snippets and chapter ideas on my phone. And it was cathartic. I admit I am not a natural writer, but I wrote it from the heart. I shared my story, wrote the truth, and I took the high road when discussing my harassers, even though I was, and still am, being defamed all over social media for speaking up for the freedom to read. I refuse to engage on social media—there’s no point—but I did want the truth to come out. And what better way than to write a book?

I recently heard author Samira Ahmed say that we must use our power and privilege for purpose, and I agree with her so much that I got it tattooed on my wrist. So yes, I’ve wanted this whole ordeal to be over since it started. But at the same time, speaking out against censorship and speaking up for libraries is important to me. I will defend both with every fiber of my being. And I am lucky that Bloomsbury gave me the chance to share my story.

Who do you think needs to read this book most?

I hate to make it political, but I think moderate Republicans like my parents need to read this book, because book banning has been so politicized by the far right. Censorship should be a nonpartisan issue. All of us should be in favor of the freedom to read, but there are so many lies being spread about libraries by extremists and then amplified by well-meaning people who just believe things they see online. So I hope this book is a way for people to understand the truth.

Also, there are so many librarians out there facing the same thing I’m facing. I hope that this book can show them that they are not alone. This fight is not unique to me or my community. It’s happening all across the country.

You write about why finding Judy Blume at the library was important to you as a young reader. Can you talk about the importance of libraries having diverse collections—and why this current wave of book bans is so pernicious?

I would not be person I am today without authors like Judy Blume, Alice Walker, and Maya Angelou. Books teach us empathy for others. Books can shape lives. It is vitally important for people to have access to books with characters who are like them and their families. And, especially in a small community like mine which is not very diverse, it is also important for people to see books that show how people are different, and that that is okay.

What we’re seeing now, however, is a group of people who are trying to other entire factions of society. Many book challenges today are led by people who do not even have kids in the school system or live in the districts in which they are lodging complaints. They are targeting books by the hundreds written by, or about, the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities, posting out-of-context passages from books on social media and calling it pornographic, and often misleading the public about where books are placed in the library, all to generate political outrage. And then those who stand up for the freedom to read, like me, are called groomers, and targeted and harassed.

You write extensively about your decision to file a defamation suit against the two men who attacked you. Lawsuits are never easy, so why was it important for you to take this to the courts?

If I thought I could have had a calm, rational meeting with the two men I’m suing, I would have done that. But these are bad actors who posted complete lies about me online and misrepresented what I said and did. They seem to revel in putting my livelihood in jeopardy. It’s true, defamation is hard to prove in court, and I knew going in that this would be an uphill battle. But it’s a road I am willing to go down because I teach my students how important it is to stand up for what you believe in, and to stand up against bullying.

At the same time, I also wanted what was done to me documented in the public record. Even if I don’t prevail, what happened to me will be there in black-and-white in court records for anyone who is willing to read the truth. And maybe this lawsuit will make someone else think twice before doing the same thing to another librarian.

In going after me, these book banners have created an activist. And I will not shy away from this mission, even if it’s one I didn’t ask for.

What’s your take on where the battle over the freedom to read stands as ALA 2024 approaches?

I think we will win some skirmishes and lose some skirmishes, but ultimately we will win the war. The public is waking up to what is happening. Eventually, communities will get tired of wasting money on lawsuits, and politicians will find a new way to pander for votes. I hope my book can be one more tool in the arsenal against censorship.

But I know getting there won’t be easy. I have heard from hundreds of librarians, and I know several who have had their jobs cut, several more who have left the profession because they are tired of being harassed, and many others are quietly shying away from making diverse book choices, fearful for their jobs and scared that every decision they make will make them a target.

These would-be censors got a jump on us, but we are catching up and have now switched from defense to offense. But we must make sure we learn from our mistake of getting too complacent. Among the lessons I’ve learned from this experience is how important it is for people to get involved with their local school and library boards and their local governments.

What do you make of the political attacks on ALA and other library associations?

It seems to me that when the censors started getting pushback for the targeted harassment of individual librarians and library systems, they decided to turn their ire on our professional organizations. They seem to think if they can undermine the organizations that support librarians, they can undermine our profession.

In my own state, my former friend and school board member, Rep. Kellee Dickerson, actually filed a bill to imprison librarians who attend ALA conferences. So many lies were told about ALA in the committee hearing for that bill, just like lies are being told about ALA all over the country. But we can and did fight back. I am proud to be on the boards of both the Louisiana Association of School Librarians and Louisiana Citizens Against Censorship, and we built coalitions and lodged an email campaign that saw over 8,000 emails against the bill sent to committee members, and we successfully killed that bill in committee.

You mention several in the book, but are there any allies or supporters you want to shout out?

I give credit to a lot of educators I follow on Twitter, but especially my friend K.C. Boyd, who is a school librarian in Washington, D.C. I also appreciate authors like Marley Dias and Angie Thomas, whose works have taught me to be a better listener. I’m still a work in progress.

Kelly Jensen at Book Riot deserves only great things in life for what she does, consistently reporting about attacks on books, authors, and libraries. She brings such awareness through her stories and shares ways to help. I feel the same about EveryLibrary. There has not been a single call for help that EveryLibrary has not answered with actionable plans. They are always willing to help build coalitions at the local level, and I will forever be grateful to them.

Finally, how are you? I know this has been a difficult journey for you, and I wonder if the book marks something of a new chapter?

I was in a really low place for quite some time, but I am doing very well now, thank you. My family and coworkers have been supportive. And I went through some intensive therapy after I was targeted. But with that support I have been able to channel my anger and sadness into helping others in my position, and I will continue to speak out at local library board meetings, in our state legislature, and in the media. In going after me, these book banners have created an activist. And I will not shy away from this mission, even if it’s one I didn’t ask for.

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