Colorado Librarian Fired for Taking a Stand, Awarded $250,000 in Censorship Case

By: Georgia | Last updated: Nov 12, 2023

In Colorado, a notable legal case has come to a close, revolving around the dismissal of a librarian, Brooky Parks, and her subsequent legal actions.

This case highlights broader issues faced by librarians across the country, as they navigate challenges related to book censorship and freedom of speech.

Growing Pressure on Librarians Nationwide

Over recent years, the American Library Association (ALA) has observed an increasing trend of librarians facing job-related threats due to their stance on book censorship.

Rows of books neatly arranged on wooden shelves in a library

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The organization’s Office of Intellectual Freedom recorded a significant increase in such incidents, from zero reports in 2019 to 31 reports in the current year.

Parks' Efforts to Promote Inclusive Events

Brooky Parks was known for organizing library events for teenagers, addressing sensitive topics such as racism and identity.

Building with parking in the foreground and a sign reading "High Plains Library District”

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These events were met with resistance, attempts were made to cancel them, and Parks opposed these efforts, leading to her dismissal from the High Plains Public Library District.

Parks Wins Settlement After Lawsuit

After a rigorous legal battle, Brooky Parks secured a $250,000 settlement from the High Plains Public Library District.

Erie Community Library building surrounded by green landscaping, including trees and a paved walkway

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As part of the case’s resolution, the district was directed to implement policies that ensure diverse community perspectives are considered when choosing library events.

Increasing Incidents of Book Bans

The ALA has documented a rise in book bans across the U.S.

A close-up image of Toni Morrison, wearing a black dress and a colorful floral shawl A close-up image of Toni Morrison, wearing a black dress and a colorful floral shawl

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Established works from authors like George Orwell, Toni Morrison, and many others are now among the frequently banned books in libraries.

Threats Against Librarians

The challenges librarians face are not limited to book bans. Many experience intimidation, including online doxxing, and even threats to their lives.

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Deborah Caldwell-Stone, from ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, confirms the occurrence of these severe threats against librarians.


Another Librarian's Encounter with Censorship

Terri Lesley, another librarian, faced scrutiny after refusing to remove books on certain themes.

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Following her refusal, she was confronted with multiple accusations and threats, leading to her dismissal from the Campbell County Public Library System, where she had served for nearly three decades.


Communities Rallying Behind Affected Librarians

While librarians face challenges, many communities across the U.S. are showing their support.

A person standing with their back to the camera, looking at extensive wooden bookshelves filled with a diverse collection of books

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Their efforts range from attending board meetings to actively voicing against censorship, providing solace to those affected like Terri Lesley, who acknowledges the significant impact of this community backing.


Legal Challenges to Censorship Across the U.S.

Several states, including Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, are witnessing legal actions from librarians and communities, pushing back against restrictive laws and decisions.

A white two-story public library building with a red-tiled roof. The building has multiple columns and large windows, with the words "PUBLIC LIBRARY" inscribed above the entrance

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These legal endeavors aim to protect First Amendment rights and counter efforts to suppress free speech.


Brooky Parks' Return to the Library World

Following her lawsuit, Brooky Parks has rejoined the library community, now working with the University of Denver.

A large stone building with Gothic architectural elements at the University of Denver

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In addition to her professional comeback, Parks has been recognized with the 2023 Julie Boucher Memorial Award for Intellectual Freedom.


A Call for Solidarity Among Librarians

Brooky Parks emphasizes the importance of collective action against book bans.

A stack of colorful children's books with visible titles such as "Willems", "Dahl", and "My Friend Is Sad"

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She believes that a united stand against censorship can make a significant impact, stressing the notion that many people do not support the banning of books.


Ongoing Efforts to Protect Free Speech

The case of Brooky Parks and others like her underscores the ongoing efforts to protect freedom of speech in libraries across the U.S.

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While challenges persist, the commitment of librarians and supportive communities offers hope for the future of free and inclusive expression in the literary world.