Louisiana Attorney General Creates Online “Tip Line” To Challenge Library Books

According to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s website, the intent of his online form for reporting graphic sexual content in libraries, created in late November 2022, is to protect minors. But the form—which has been called a “tip line” by the news media—has fueled criticism that it promotes censorship, targets the LGBTQIA+ community, and could escalate threats against library workers.

Jeff Landry head shot
Courtesy of Office of United States Congressman Jeff Landry

According to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s website, the intent of his online form for reporting graphic sexual content in libraries, created in late November 2022, is to protect minors. But the form—which has been called a “tip line” by the news media—has fueled criticism that it promotes censorship, targets the LGBTQIA+ community, and could escalate threats against library workers.

The “Protecting Minors” form states: “A library should be a safe place to learn—a place where a child might develop a lifelong love of reading, discover intellectual passions, and pursue dreams for a fulfilling career. A librarian should connect child readers with data that will help them become more informed, more thoughtful, and more productive members of our society.”

The form contains fields for the respondent’s name, email address, phone number, and a description of the content being reported, with the instructions, “If this type of taxpayer-subsided [sic] sexualization of children has impacted you or your family, tell us about it below. Please use the form to share your experience with librarians, teachers, school board members, district superintendents, and/or library supervisors.”



The tip line is symptomatic of a larger struggle over library materials that has flared up in Louisiana’s St. Tammany, Lafayette, and Livingston parishes, and threatens to spread throughout the state.

On one side are groups such as the conservative Citizens for a New Louisiana, while on the other are intellectual-freedom groups like Lafayette Citizens Against Censorship. Caught in the line of fire are library workers like Amanda Jones, an award-winning school librarian who said she has been harassed online and has even received a death threat, and is now on medical leave.

The issue of library content has spilled out beyond the children’s and teen sections and into state politics. Landry has announced he is running for governor on a platform that includes ensuring parent rights in education.

According to news reports, Landry has stated that his office has been made aware of some books in public libraries considered to be “borderline pornography” and unsuitable for children. He also said, when asked how the information gathered from the tip line would be used, that other states—including Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia, have proposed bills restricting access to certain library books by minors, and a similar debate may be necessary in Louisiana. (Landry’s office did not respond to requests to comment for this article.)

In a Facebook post, Landry urged people to sign a petition to “protect our kids from sexual content,” writing, “Our children are innocent and pure, and the content that has been produced and pushed onto them—especially without proper parental approval—has been disgusting, extreme and completely inappropriate! Add your name if you agree and join me in this fight to protect our children from obscene and graphic sexual content in our schools and public libraries across Louisiana!”

Landry’s office has weighed in on free speech issues in the past. He has been outspoken on the “disturbing collusion between Big Tech and Big Government,” joining Missouri’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt, in a 2022 lawsuit alleging that top-ranking Biden officials worked with social-media giants Meta (Facebook), Twitter, and YouTube to suppress free speech.



Lynette Mejia, a homeschool parent in Lafayette Parish and cofounder of Lafayette Citizens Against Censorship, told Library Journal, “Jeff Landry has been [attorney general] for seven years now. If there was all this pornography in the libraries and he was going to arrest librarians, why hasn't he done any of that until now? All of a sudden we've got this huge crisis of pornography and these rogue librarians who are trying to expose our children to sexual content in libraries? All of a sudden this is some crisis that he has suddenly discovered? I mean, it’s patently ridiculous on its face.”

For Mejia, however, this is only the latest front in a battle she and her allies have been waging with the Lafayette Public Library (LPL) Board of Control, which, she said, has been leaning toward a more right-wing, politically conservative interpretation of Christianity. In July 2022, Board of Control members tried to fire LPL North Regional Library Branch Manager Cara Chance for insubordination after she included LGBTQIA+ books in a display of teen romance titles, in defiance of the library system director’s ban on book displays on “political subjects.” The policy, Mejia said, was instituted the day before Pride Month began.

“To this day, we don't have Black History Month displays. Now we don't have Women's History Month displays,” she said. “Just because board members didn't want Pride displays.”

Mejia said titles with LGBTQIA+ content, such as Juno Dawson’s This Book is Gay, are being targeted. That book was challenged at LPL in November 2021, when a reconsideration committee decided in favor of keeping it on the shelf. Director Danny Gillane then decided to remove the entire teen nonfiction section and put the books into the adult nonfiction section.

“For those of us who truly understand censorship, that’s no better than taking a book [permanently] out of the library,” Melanie Brevis, cofounder of Lafayette Citizens Against Censorship and a member of the LPL Foundation Board, told LJ.

“I think it starts from an anti-LGBT[QIA+] agenda,” she said. “Our library system attempted to do a drag-queen story time in 2018. And that was the first time we saw people come out of the woodwork [in protest]. A couple of the council members were trying to get this resolution passed against the library, condemning what they were trying to do.”

In 2019, Brevis said, three politically conservative members were elected to the Lafayette Parish Council, which appoints the library board. Since then, she added, every library board appointment has reflected politically conservative views. This included changing the makeup of the reconsideration committee, which had been composed of two library staff and one board of control member. Now it consists of one staff member and two board members, creating a more favorable climate for book challenges.

Brevis, an activist who was a public librarian in Maryland before moving to Lafayette, was escorted by parish deputies from the January 9 library board of control meeting; the board president, Robert Judge, declared her out of order during the public comment period.

In her comment, Brevis referred to the “hateful and prejudicial actions” of the board and said, “We know a certain trio of parish council members have a clear type when selecting board of control members. And that type is a simple checklist: Conservative. Christian. Willing to toe the false narrative that there is a leftist takeover and that children are in danger. Willing to segregate materials due solely to personal beliefs.”

Judge declined to comment for this article. However, he did say that the library responds to book challenges according to a policy that has been in place for the last decade.



Landry’s efforts have the support of Michael Lunsford of Citizens for a New Louisiana, which Lunsford calls a “government transparency and accountability organization.”

Lunsford told LJ that his organization has been involved in library issues, finding success in getting “questionable books” moved from the children’s section to the adult section at LPL.

Landry "is a sharp guy,” Lunsford said. “If nothing else, creating this tip line made headlines in the state of Louisiana. And I think library boards and library administrators noticed. When the Attorney General sets up a tip line about erotic material in the library, I think the board members at every library board of control meeting knows about it. I know every administrator does. I think it makes them more aware of the issue. And I think they're going to be paying a little bit closer attention to this, instead of just going through the motions.”

He traces his involvement in library issues to email he received from the group MassResistance, which describes itself on its website as “a leading pro-family activist organization” originally founded in 1995 as the Parents’ Rights Coalition. “They were saying they were finding these nasty books in the library. And I said, ‘Not in my library, not here in the Lafayette area. We don't have that stuff here. It's the most conservative city in the entire United States.’”

Giving his reasons for ferreting out what he considers inappropriate material in libraries, Lunsford said, “I believe that the innocence of our children is of the utmost importance. That’s my personal feeling. And most people I talk to believe the same way. Even people on the other side”—including, he claimed, people in the LGBTQIA+ community.



“I find that the folks that want these books to remain are very outspoken,” Lunsford said. “They’re very aggressive. They’re the ones calling people names.”

One who might take issue with that remark is Livingston Parish resident Amanda Jones, president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians. Jones, a 2021 Library Journal Mover and Shaker who was named School Librarian of the Year by School Library Journal and Louisiana School Librarian of the Year as well, sued Lunsford and Citizens for a New Louisiana for defamation.

In the suit, Jones said that she spoke before the Livingston Parish Library Board of Control in July 2022, after a board member requested the board examine what they deem “inappropriate” books. During her public comment, she told the board, “While book challenges are often done with the best intentions, and in the name of age appropriateness, they often target marginalized communities such as the BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] and the LGBTQ[IA+] community. They also target books on sexual health and reproduction.” Mentioning that Livingston Parish has the highest rate of children in foster care per capita in Louisiana, she said, “I find it ironic that any member of the community would want to limit access to any book on reproduction or relocate it away from [the] children who need it most.”

Following her appearance at the board meeting, Jones claimed in the suit, she was the victim of a smear campaign by Lunsford and Citizens for a New Louisiana. A Facebook post showed Jones’s head and upper body in a red circle with a white border, similar to a target. The text above the picture read, “Here is Amanda Jones at the Livingston Parish Library board meeting on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Why is she fighting so hard to keep sexually erotic and pornographic materials in the kids’ section?”

Jones also said in her suit that Lunsford stated he planned to go to Jones’s place of employment, saying, “Don’t worry about that teacher’s school, we’re going to be scheduling a visit tomorrow.”

Jones spoke with LJ about the backlash she felt after speaking at the library board-of-control meeting, “People were posting that I needed to be purged, I’m a pedophile, I’m a groomer. I had a credible death threat that's still being investigated. I’m actually on medical leave from school.”

Jones said she sees the tip line as part of a pattern of behavior used to advance a political agenda. “They are very much using libraries and librarians as their political pawns. They are using very harmful rhetoric, and it seems that our attorney general is just fueling that fire. It’s a playbook. It’s the same thing you're seeing in Florida and Texas and all of these other places.”

“If you look at the lists that are being submitted to all of these parishes on books that are being challenged, it’s the majority of books with LGBTQ[IA]+ characters, or people of color,” she added. “It’s very thinly veiled.”



Lafayette resident Peyton Rose Michelle, executive director of Louisiana Trans Advocates, who became the first openly transgender woman elected to a political position when she won a seat on the Democratic State Central Committee, said that before the tip line was posted, the Louisiana Department of Education released guidance advising against following the new Title IX regulations designed to protect transgender students.

In an interview with LJ, Michelle said, “That was the first step of our government towards this kind of ideology. And that was followed a couple months later by our attorney general’s tip line.”

She added, “I tend to believe that there is some kind of coordinated effort happening between the group [advocating] book bans and our attorney general’s office and our state superintendent’s office.”

Michelle called Landry’s online form “really frightening. It’s just a misuse of taxpayer money to imply to citizens that there is sexually explicit, graphic content out in our libraries. It’s just irresponsible.” Book bans are particularly harmful to LGBTQIA+ youth, Michelle added, denying them the opportunity to understand their identity. In addition, “these books are about queer people, but they’re also mostly written by queer people,” Michelle noted, and banning their work denies them economic opportunities.



Louisiana Trans Advocates has worked to combat anti-LGBTQIA+ bills, Michelle said, including a “don’t say gay” bill that would have banned books. The group is also preparing for book-banning bills on the horizon from the state legislature. The Louisiana Association of School Librarians is also on the frontlines and has created a censorship toolkit.

Jones, the association president, has created the Livingston Parish Library Alliance to fight censorship in her parish, and has united with activists in Lafayette Parish to create Louisiana Citizens against Censorship, a grassroots organization she hopes will include all 64 parishes. Thus far, the group contains five.

Meanwhile, on her website, she expressed optimism about 2023. Although she lost her case, she wrote that her attorneys will be filing a motion for appeal with the First Circuit Court of Appeals. If necessary, she intends to take her case to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

She wrote, “I am committed to continuing to speak out against censorship and to speak up for myself against those who choose to tarnish my good name. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, I am proud to keep standing up for myself with integrity and grace.”

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