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Librarians say Missouri Secretary of State is overreaching in proposal restricting materials

Mid-Continent Public Library
Mid-Continent Public Library
Steve Potter (above) opposes the proposed rule for public libraries. He retired as director in 2022 after 34 years with the Mid-Continent Public Library.

The proposal by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft would threaten the funding of libraries over "non-age-appropriate materials" for minors. But former library administrators say the rules are "redundant and unnecessary."

In October, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced he had submitted proposed rule 15 CSR 30-200.015: "Library Certification Requirement for the Protection of Minors."

If approved, libraries that receive state funds would have to certify in writing that they are in compliance with six requirements "to protect minors from non-age-appropriate materials" or risk losing that funding.

A group of 12 former Missouri library directors and administrators signed onto a letter opposing the rule, sent to Ashcroft on Nov. 30.

Two of the signatories, former Mid-Continent Public Library director Steve Potter and former Trails Regional Library director Karen Hicklin, pointed out that libraries already have in place many of the things Ashcroft is calling for — written policies that are publicly accessible on selecting and collecting items and on challenging a library's materials.

For Potter, who recently retired from the library, the rule has implications beyond funding. He sees an impact on the freedom to access information.

"You really are affecting what librarianship, and I would argue, what a democratic republic is all about," Potter says.

A 30-day window for public input on the secretary of state’s proposal runs through Thursday, Dec. 15. To file a statement of opposition or support with the Secretary of State’s office email comments@sos.mo.gov or post a letter addressed to Missouri Secretary of State, P.O. Box 1767, Jefferson City, MO 65102. You must include rule number 15 CSR 30-200.015 with your correspondence

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