I usually stay away from politics on this blog, but this issue is urgent and huge. Missouri Secretary of State, Jay Ashcroft, who seems desperate to stay in the spotlight through ever more extreme and controversial measures, has proposed a new rule for public libraries in the state, deceptively title “Library Certification Rule for the Protection of Minors.”
Under this proposal, public libraries would lose funding if they continue their policies of allowing parents and families to make the choices about what their own children are allowed to read. Instead, libraries would be required to make available to minors only books approved by the state.
Beyond the free speech implications, this kind of rule is setting libraries up to fail by making it logistically impossible to function. How do you enforce it at the library level? Do you station a staff member at every self check machine to demand photo ID and act as a bouncer for anyone under 18 trying to check out materials?
A similar state law has already gone into effect regulating public school libraries, to chilling effect. Thanks to SB775 “School districts have banned works on Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, graphic novel adaptations of classics by Shakespeare and Mark Twain as well as The Gettysburg Address, the Pulitzer-prize winning Maus, and educational books about the Holocaust. Also banned have been comics about Batman, X-Men, and Watchmen; The Complete Guide to Drawing & Painting by Reader’s Digest; Women (a book of photographs by Annie Leibovitz); and The Children’s Bible,” according to this article in PEN America.
Public library boards, professional organizations such as the Missouri Library Association, workers’ unions, and many others are uniting their voices to oppose this radical attack on libraries and the right to read. See what some of them have to say on the matter:
The time to take action is now. Public comments are accepted through December 15. If emailing, send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org (15 CSR 30-200.015 must be included in the subject line.)
SAVE OUR RIGHT TO READ. SAVE OUR LIBRARIES.