The Jefferson County Library system’s Board of Trustees responded to a proposed administrative rule by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft that would impact libraries and the materials they can check out by passing a resolution reaffirming their “commitment to upholding intellectual freedom.”
The Library Board requests that Ashcroft’s plan be rejected by Missouri’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules in its resolution.
A proposed administrative rule that would require libraries to obtain certification in order to receive state funds was unveiled by Ashcroft on November 15. The libraries would need to implement policies to “protect minors from non-age-appropriate materials” before they could receive certification. However, neither Ashcroft nor the Secretary of State Office specify what kinds of publications are suitable for certain age groups.
Before a final decision on the proposal was reached, Missourians had a 30-day window to provide feedback.
State funds may not be used to “purchase or acquire inappropriate materials in any form that appeal to the prurient interest of a minor,” according to the proposed administrative rule.
Libraries would have to establish written policies specifying what content is appropriate for children, and parents would be able to contest that determination. Additionally, Ashcroft’s office stated that libraries would need to respect parents’ choices regarding the materials their children might access.
In a statement that was released, Ashcroft stated, “We want to bring back local control and parental involvement in determining what children are exposed to when state dollars are involved.” “Yeah, we want to ensure that libraries have the materials and resources necessary for their patrons, but we also want our kids to be ‘children’ for a little while longer than a prevalent culture often dictates.”
Similar resolutions opposing Ashcroft’s proposal were passed by the library systems in Jefferson County and St. Louis County during their respective meetings on November 21.
The Jefferson County Library board stated its fundamental principles in a resolution, saying that “the library will not infringe on the parent’s right to choose materials for their children; responsibility for a child’s reading must rest with the parent or guardian, not with the library.” The board also stated that “the right to read is an important part of the intellectual freedom that is basic to democracy.”
“Does not support the removal of local control where library administration is concerned,” the board added.
The board declared, “The Jefferson County Library District remains unwavering in its dedication to preserve intellectual freedom.” It upholds the right of patrons to read at will and maintains that parents or guardians have the exclusive authority to decide what kind of library content is suitable for their kids. It confirms that local governments should continue to make decisions about policy and collection development.
The Jefferson County Library encourages parents and guardians to cultivate in their children a love of reading, creativity, and a strong sense of imagination—all of which can be found in abundance at the library—along with the resolution. The Board of Trustees also released a statement along with the resolution. The best interests of kids, families, and library users are supported by a well-established collection development policy at the library. We appreciate parental and guardian involvement in their children’s library usage.
Our collection development strategies, in our opinion, efficiently serve our patrons and represent the socioeconomic status, age, race, ethnicity, culture, education, and lifestyle variety of the communities we serve. Every person has the right to quietly read, hear, and watch the entire corpus of published ideas and thoughts, and the Library protects this right. The American Library Association’s Freedom to Read and Freedom to View statements, as well as the Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations, are values that the Library upholds.
We are constantly aware of the potential for censorship and the limitation of fair access to books and other essential library resources. We think that parents and guardians have the right to decide what is best for their own children, and we are cautious of other parties, such as the State of Missouri, dictating such decisions to others.
Comments on the proposed regulation must be sent by Thursday, December 15.