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Missouri Secretary of State proposes withholding library funds over 'inappropriate materials'

 Books at a library
Hermann Kollinger
Books at a library

Under the proposed rule, Jay Ashcroft’s office said in a news release, “state funds could not be used to purchase or acquire inappropriate materials in any form that appeal to the prurient interest of a minor.”

A proposed ruleby the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office would put in place measures to protect minors from non-age-appropriate materials at state-funded libraries.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft submitted the proposed rule on Tuesday.

The proposal would establish a certification requirement for libraries receiving state funds, according to his office.

Libraries would also be required to adopt written policies for determining what material is age-appropriate.

Regina Greer Cooper, executive director of the Springfield-Greene County Library, questions the need for the proposed rule.

“Several of the things that are in there, our library district is already doing this," said Cooper. "We already have policies — we have a collections materials policy. We have librarians who are well trained — we buy things that are age appropriate and designated for certain ages. We place them in the library in the appropriate place for those age groups.”

Under the proposed rule, Ashcroft’s office said in a news release, “state funds could not be used to purchase or acquire inappropriate materials in any form that appeal to the prurient interest of a minor.”

Ashcroft said in the statement, “we want to make sure libraries have the resources and materials they need for their constituents, but we also want our children to be ‘children’ a little longer than a pervasive culture many often dictate.”

The proposed rule would require libraries to honor a parent’s decision as to what material their child has access to in the library. And parents would have the right to challenge a library’s age-appropriate designation for any material.

Greer Cooper said they already have a policy in place to allow parents to challenge whether a selection is age-appropriate.

“They can fill out a form and then we have a committee of librarians that will review the information about the book or the movie or whatever and then make a recommendation to me and then we will follow through with a letter to the patron,” Cooper said.

The proposed rule also addresses where displays of library materials are placed. Cooper said the library district already places displays of adult material in adults areas, teen material in teen areas and children's material in children's areas.

"What worries me is who is going to decide, you know, which materials are in the age appropriate areas, and are they going to have a different opinion than our trained librarians, and who is the authority with this rule, and what will happen, and how will it be implemented — will somebody be checking on something?" said Cooper.

She's concerned personal opinions will drive the decision rather than well thought out decisions made by professional librarians who have been on the job for a long time.

The proposed administrative rule will be published in the Missouri Register on November 15, and then will have a 30-day comment period. You can send comments by email to comments@sos.mo.gov or mail in comments.

Greer Cooper says she hopes the public’s comments will be taken into consideration when the decision is made as to whether the rule will be implemented. She says she believes the proposed rule would be problematic for libraries.
Copyright 2022 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.
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