They Want to Kill Libraries

The Last Place in America Where You Are a Person, Not a Customer

Cory Doctorow
4 min readNov 13, 2022


A member of the SA throws confiscated books into the bonfire during the public burning of “un-German” books on the Opernplatz in Berlin.

In August, a small group of vocal, angry Idahoans targeted the Boundary County Library, demanding that the library purge 300 books on a list of “inappropriate” materials that circulates widely among right-wing conspiracy groups.

Boundary County Library didn’t have the books that the conspiracy theorists were angry about. Nevertheless, the group harassed and threatened the library staff, demanded the removal of the library board, and continued to target library staff even after they quit their jobs.

These conspiracists are part of a small but vocal minority of people who’ve been hoaxed by deep-pocketed right-wing media barons, who have propagated a lie that libraries are full of “groomers” who expose children to “inappropriate” materials as part of a program of sexual abuse.

Every accusation is a confession. The upper ranks of evangelicals and the Catholic Church are filled with pedophile abusers; as is the slate of MAGA election candidates.

The “groomer” panic is all astroturf. It’s a cynical ploy to whip up scared and easily confused people and point them at libraries, and not just libraries that have Genderqueer on the shelf or host Drag Queen Story Hours. They’re targeting all the libraries.

They’re targeting the very idea of libraries.

Yesterday’s installment of the excellent On The Media NPR show featured a fantastic interview with incoming American Library Association president Emily Drabinski and it’s a must-listen masterclass in understanding what libraries mean, and why wealthy right-wing media barons would want to destroy them.

Libraries are the last place in America where you are valued for your personhood, rather than the contents of your wallet. At the library, you are a patron, not a customer.

As the public sphere has shrunk, libraries have expanded to pick up the slack. Librarians liase with social workers for their patrons, help them apply for emergency rental assistance, give them broadband onsite and to take home with them (the New York Public Library calls its wifi hospot program “lending out the entire internet”). Your library will loan you a suit



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: