A growing trend across America’s public schools has involved exposing young children to adult themes and sexually explicit material. Much of this trend has involved libraries that include such objectionable books on their shelves.
Missouri lawmakers sought to address this issue by passing a law that could result in a $2,000 fine and up to one year behind bars for a librarian who provides minors with prohibited content.
As expected, the measure sparked backlash from the left, including an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit on behalf of two state organizations that represent librarians.
Court documents allege that hundreds of books have been removed from school libraries as a result of the law, which seems to highlight how widespread the issue of explicit content in schools has become.
Furthermore, the lawsuit cites “uncertainty” related in complaining that librarians, teachers, and administrators have been forced to “self-censor when they consider the selection and retention of materials and titles for library and curricular collections.”
— Library Journal (@LibraryJournal) February 24, 2023
Supporters of the law, on the other hand, bristle at the allegation that it is somehow unconstitutional to protect minors from adult themes and images.
“How it gets defined obviously matters, but I think the general premise that keeping explicit content out of libraries and out of the view of minors and public spaces is a violation of the First Amendment is a pretty extreme view, in my opinion,” explained Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, a Republican.
In a press release denouncing the law, Missouri Association of School Librarians President Melissa Corey asserted that it “has created a chilling effect on school library collection development, resulting in fewer representative books within our collections, due to fear of prosecution.”
Librarians and advocacy groups nationwide have expressed similar outrage over efforts in other states to limit exposure to explicit content in school libraries. In response to the decision to remove certain books that depict graphic adult themes, the library director for Round Rock Independent School District in Texas interpreted it as an attack on the profession.
“You can imagine our librarians feel scared, like their character was in question,” Ami Uselman said.