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As libraries across the state make adjustments, two Springfield metro library systems report that they are generally in compliance with new state rules that affect materials offered to children.
The rules, set to go into effect on May 30, in general prohibit state funding from going toward a library that does not consider whether materials are age appropriate for minors.
A team of staff members and administrators with the Springfield-Greene County Library District is analyzing and evaluating its policies, said Kathleen O’Dell, community relations director for the district.
“We do not anticipate having any difficulty complying,” O’Dell said.
The Christian County Library also is in compliance, said Executive Director Renee Brumett.
“We are in pretty good shape,” Brumett said. “We are reviewing a couple things that the board of trustees may look at next month, but that is mostly just to clarify that our current policies meet the spirit of the rule.”
Library card reworks
Other library systems across southwest Missouri have been making changes to their policies in order to comply. On Wednesday, the Joplin Public Library effectively locked all cards and asked cardholders to fill in a new registration form before reactivation. That new form spells out that parents, not librarians, are responsible for materials their children check out.
Earlier this month, the Carthage Public Library canceled all juvenile library cards and required parents to agree with a similar statement about responsibility before issuing new cards.
Neither Springfield-Greene County nor Christian County went through a similar cancellation process — representatives with both systems said that current policies already made the issue of parental responsibility clear.
O’Dell said while that information is not on the registration form for a card for the Springfield-Greene County system, the policy is clearly spelled out on the Springfield-Greene County Library website.
Brumett said such a responsibility rule has been a Christian County Library policy for years, meaning that parents won’t have to ask for new cards for their children.
New law passed through administrative rule
The new law, officially labeled 15 CSR 30-200.015, was put in place by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft late last year using an “administrative rule” process granted by the power of that office. It did not receive any reviews by the Missouri legislature, and did not receive an in-person public hearing.
It was open for comments online, however, where about 20,000 pages worth of comments were gathered, according to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Among the new law’s provisions:
- Libraries that receive state funding must post their collection policy and address how selections are made when considering age-appropriateness of materials.
- State funds cannot be used to buy materials considered “pornographic for minors.”
- Parents and legal guardians are solely responsible for what materials a library can check out to children.
- Parents or legal guardians of a child with a library’s card may challenge the library’s determination of whether a title is age appropriate.
- Events held at the library, such as story times, must have age-appropriate designations.
The language aligns with Republican legislative efforts targeting transgender people, and a larger culture war issue dealing with the banning of books that discuss racial history or LGBTQ issues.
Ashcroft said the rule is not a book ban, even though the rule ties funding to the banning of books.
“I think this is reasonable strings on dollars,” he said in an interview with Tovia Smith, of St. Louis Public Radio, earlier this month. “We see that all the time with government funding. It happens with highways, it happens with schools. That is the way of the world.”
Its language mirrors House Bill 1159, a proposed law that died in the Missouri House during this year’s legislative session.
The Missouri Library Association opposed the rule and the bill, saying that the rule is too vague, and current policies prohibiting pornography are sufficient.
“Providing materials to minors that constitute the legal definition of pornography … is already illegal, and libraries already comply,” the group said in a statement on its website. “The proposed rule … forces librarians to be complicit in undermining their own institutions if they want access to state funding and creates the fear of prosecution for libraries and librarians. These provisions are short-sighted, unnecessary and dangerous.”
The Daily Citizen has requested comment from the Missouri Secretary of State’s office about a potential grace period for enforcement of the law, and will update this report in the event of a response.