A new rule that took effect on Tuesday requires Missouri 160 libraries to have a written policy defining what materials are age-appropriate, keep non-appropriate materials and displays out of areas designated for minors and post whether events and presentations are suitable for some or all age groups.
The most likely response from libraries, leaders of the Missouri Library Association said, is to give parents a choice — either allow their child to have a library card, with full access to books and other materials, or monitor the selections in person and check out with the parent’s card. “If you are that concerned, you need to be in the library helping them select materials,” Cody Croan, chair of the association’s legislative committee says.
Concerned parents and legislators have responded that libraries just need to employ some common sense in what they make available to children.
Media outlets and those on the left have criticized the new law wrongly labeling it as a “book ban.” Liz Chiarello, writing for Riverfront Times, alleged the state is on a “slippery slope towards authoritarianism,” and liked it to Nazi Germany and China. “How dare anyone destroy precious institutions on which so many people depend,” she writes.
Other irresistible headlines misrepresenting the effects of the law include:
As new Missouri library rule takes effect, librarians say kids’ access to books will be limited – KCUR Public Radio
Missouri’s new effort to punish libraries is vindictive and harmful – The Pitch
Librarians in Missouri could face jail time – KCTV-5
But the extreme language in the media hasn’t drowned out the actual facts of the law, say supporters of the guardrails.
The policy must allow the parent or guardian of a child to challenge the designation of any material or event. The rule, first proposed by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft in October as he was mulling a bid for governor, would deny state funding to any library that does not submit a written policy by July 31.
The rule covers all funds distributed through the State Library, a branch of Ashcroft’s office. This year, this would be $4.5 million for direct aid, much of it distributed on a per capita basis, as well as $3.35 million for computer networks, $3.1 million to support access to materials available online and $4.1 million in anticipated federal library grants.
“As the keeper of the funds, they have to make an application for those grants through our office,” Ashcroft spokesman JoDonn Chaney said. “They have always had steps to follow.”
Another rule governing library materials also deals with obscene materials. Since 2003, libraries have been required to block minors from accessing pornographic material via the Internet at public terminals.
There have been two significant changes from the original proposal to the final rule. The first was to narrow the definition of what could not be purchased with state funds from obtaining “materials in any form that appeal to the prurient interest of any minor” to materials defined as obscene and forbidden to minors in state law. The other was to limit those who could challenge the policies from “any person” to “any parent or guardian” of a child who lives in the area served by the library district.
In an earlier statement the Kansas City Public Library said a child’s age should not determine their access to materials, “…parents and guardians should be arbiters on what is suitable for their children. They shouldn’t impose those choices on others. Nor should the state of Missouri.”
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice