Proposal brings new censorship rules for public libraries

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KBSI) – A proposal submitted by Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft will define how public libraries operate in the state of Missouri when it comes to racy content that young people can view.

The proposal was announced October 14, 2022. It is titled the Library Certification Requirement for the Protection of Minors. The rule, according to Ashcroft, is meant to prevent minors from having access to non-age-appropriate material.

Riverside Regional Library Director Jeff Trinkle in Jackson says the library already follows those censorship rules.

“We already take all these things into consideration,” said Trinkle. “Pornography in the library is nothing that any library director or collection development officer would even think about.”

Ashcroft says any library in the state can carry whatever materials it wants to; it just cannot allow children to access adult material.

In Cape Girardeau, at the Cape Public Library, the rules are bit different for a larger library and can mean many things.

Katie Earnhardt is the library director and says the proposal lacks specifics.

“There’s a lot of vagueness in the way the rule is written, which makes it hard as library administration to implement the rule,” said Earnhardt.

Another concern comes from youth administrator Sharon Anderson, who says she worries the proposal could limit what teens with questions on sexuality are allowed to read.

“So we know that there are LGBTIQQ kids in our community who are looking for information, and we know that libraries have always been the place for information,” said Sharon Anderson, the Youth Services Coordinator with the Cape Girardeau Public Library.

But the librarians believe censorship should start with the parents.

“We are really concerned about providing access we definitely want parents to be involved in their children’s choice of reading materials,” said Anderson.

“If a parent is signing up for a library card, they are taking on the responsibility of knowing there may be something in our library that they do not agree with,” said Earnhardt. “It’s their responsibility as the parent to decide whether their child should have the access to view that, to check it out.”

While the issue is still only a proposal for libraries to follow, if the ruling comes to law, then libraries who do not comply will have their funding withdrawn.

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