Rep. Ben Baker files library oversight bill to keep sexual material away from minors

Missouri lawmaker says he wants to keep "age-inappropriate sexual content" at libraries away from minors

NEOSHO, Mo. — A Missouri Lawmaker says he wants to keep sexual materials at libraries out of kid’s hands.

But a lot of people are pushing against the idea, saying it’s a form of censorship.

“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,” says State Representative Ben Baker. “Unfortunately, there are some libraries in the state of Missouri that have done this. And that’s a problem.”

On January 8th, Baker filed the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act, and it’s already getting backlash.

“I was contacted by my fellow directors across the state. They’re all very very upset about it. The Missouri Library Association’s very aware of it, so also is the American Library Association at a federal level,” says Carrie Cline, Director of the Neosho Newton County Library.

House Bill 2044, if passed, would make it so that no library that receives state aid can allow minors access to “age-inappropriate sexual material.”

The bill also sets up a five-person parental library review board, which would decide what material is considered inappropriate for minors.

“The main thing that I’ve heard is that I want to ban books or ban content or censor content, and that’s not the case. I just think that there’s a line between what is open and available access for our children,” says Baker. “Even the bill specifies it wouldn’t be taken out of the library, it would just be put in a section that’s not for children.”

“If the adult wanted to, and said I’m okay with my child reading this or looking at this, then they could check that out, and have that available for their child. I just think that we need to be careful about funding something with our taxpayer dollars without parental consent,” adds Baker.

Some people at the Neosho Newton County Library that KOAM spoke with say it would be a good idea because kids are exposed to too much sexual content elsewhere.

But others, like Cline, think it should be a choice that individual parents make with their kids.

“If it is okay with you that your child has chosen something off the shelf and wants to check it out, that’s between you and your family,” says Cline. “I think if they have chosen something that you think is inappropriate for whatever reason, then I think that’s a great teachable moment to explain why you as a family think that that item is inappropriate, and put it back and don’t check it out.”

If the bill passes, it would also mean any library staff that violates the act would face a 500 dollar fine, or a year in jail.

 

The full text of the bill can be found here: https://house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills201/hlrbillspdf/4634H.01I.pdf

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