JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
A new state rule allowing parents to challenge which books are appropriate for children went into effect Tuesday.
The rule — put into place by Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft — requires libraries to create and publicly post policies about how it will separate materials by age-appropriateness, require parental permission for minors to check out books and allow parents to challenge any materials. The rule is tied to state funding.
Libraries must submit policies to the state library by July 31 in order to continue receiving state funding.
Local libraries’ reactions
Local libraries feel confident they’re following the rule. Angie Bayne, assistant director of public services
at Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City, said only minor changes were made on most of the library’s policies.
“The only thing that we’ve really had to make big changes on is that the rule requires written parental permission for kids to check out,” Bayne said. “We have about 3,000 minor cards, active cards, in our system right now. And we’re going to have to require parents for all 3,000 of those children to sign a form giving permission to check out.”
Missouri River Regional already separated books by age, with the top floor designated for children from birth to age 18.
“What children access in the library is up to parents,” Bayne said. “Librarians and staff at the library are not the gatekeepers of the books.”
However, Bayne said the library would like to expand to create new sections where teen books would be completely separate from children’s books.
A vote on a tax levy that would allow the library to expand will be held Aug. 8 .
Director of Daniel Boone Regional Library Margaret Conroy said the library has already posted its policies and trained staff on how to follow the new rule.
“DBRL has long had a policy and procedures in place for patrons to comment on materials in the library. The process is outlined in our Patron Comments on Library Materials Policy, available on our website,” Conroy said.
Conroy said the library does not stock any sexually explicit materials.
Ashcroft’s office said the rule is to encourage local control and regulation of library materials.
“When state dollars are involved, we want to bring back local control and parental involvement in determining what children are exposed to,” Ashcroft said. “Foremost, we want to protect our children. One of the best ways to do that is by make sure parents know what their child is exposed to.”
However, Missouri Library Association President-elect Kimberly Moeller said the rules are too vague.
“We’re hoping to put together lists of different recommendations that libraries are trying, but we have no idea if what’s being put into effect will be in compliance or not,” Moeller said.
Moeller worries about how people will challenge things like LGBTQ+ displays during the upcoming Pride Month. She said the rule leaves things up for interpretation.