Missouri bill proposes library review boards, removing ‘inappropriate sexual material’

Updated: Jan. 17, 2020 at 11:19 PM CST
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JACKSON, Mo. (KFVS) - A proposed bill in Missouri’s House is looking to create parental review boards at public libraries across the state.

The elected group of five local adults would have the final say on removing books or other materials with sexual themes that are deemed “inappropriate” for minors.

Rep. Ben Baker (R-Mo.) of Neosho sponsored Missouri House Bill 2044.

He argued the additional oversight would protect young patrons when they visit the public setting.

“It wouldn’t be taken out of the library it just wouldn’t be put in the section for children,” Baker said in an interview CBS affiliate television station KOAM.

“The main thing is I want to be able to take my kids to a library and make sure they’re in a safe environment, and that they’re not gonna be exposed to something that is objectionable material,” Baker added.

But the proposed bill in getting backlash from local libraries and national organizations like the American Libraries Association Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone said the proposal threatens library users’ freedom to read.

“We support the right of families and individuals to choose materials from a diverse spectrum of ideas and beliefs,” Caldwell-Stone said in an official ALA statement. “Public libraries already have procedures in place that assist parents in selecting materials that fit their family’s information needs, while not censoring materials or infringing upon the rights of other families or patrons to choose the books they want and need.”

Ashton Eastin often takes her son to Riverside Regional Library in Jackson, Mo.

She also disagreed with the HB 2044, and wants books that discuss things like homosexuality or sexual assault to still be on the shelf.

“Have the stories out in the open just because these are things we’re going to encounter in our daily life," Eastin said. “You want to be able to have that conversation with them. Maybe they see it in real life, and maybe you have a book to parallel that with. I think if it’s important to you and you want to discuss it that should be your choice. It’s not like they’re being forced to bring the books that are in the library home.”

Jeff Trinkle is the director of the six branches of Riverside Regional Library. He respects the idea of trying to make public libraries safer for youth.

“This bill I’m sure the intentions are good, but there are all of these unintended consequences,” Trinkle said.

According to Trinkle, about 60 percent of new arrivals to Riverside libraries come from suggestions made by parents and other patrons.

He feared that adding another layer of oversight restricts American’s freedom to access information.

“It’s reflected in our constitution the first amendment addresses that,” Trinkle said. “And I think for public libraries it gives us a real meaning. It gives us a real purpose because it is fundamental to all of society.”

Trinkle added that every public library takes safety seriously and has other things in place to protect kids.

“I think that is really important with our computers and the internet, and we already adhere to the Children’s Internet Protection Act," Trinkle said.

In its current form, House Bill 2044 would also impose a $500 fine or up to one year in jail for library staff who violate its rules.

However, the proposal is still in the earlier stages of discussion and has not been brought to a vote.

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