Libraries should not be held hostage


Today’s post is a bit late because I honestly couldn’t figure out what to blog about. Sure, I could have taken on either of the major debates last night (already been done to death by others) or done something silly or any one of a number of other things. But none of them excited me enough to put fingers to keyboard. Then I came across a story over on Publishers Weekly that didn’t excite me as much as make me shake my head and wish our politicians would stay out of our daily lives. So I guess this post is a bit of politics, a bit of parental outrage and a bit of WTFery.

Specifically, the secretary of state for Missouri has proposed a new rule for the Missouri State Library. In doing so, Jay Ashcroft wants to push Missouri one step closer to truly becoming a nanny state with his “Protection of Minors” rule for libraries.

Note, this “rule” would apply to all libraries across the state and potentially impacts monies from non-state sources:

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has proposed an Administrative Rule (15 CSR 30-200.015 Library Certification Requirement for the Protection of Minors) that would withhold and/or restrict funding from libraries across the state of Missouri. Funds to be potentially restricted include not only state and federal grants but also public library funds allocated by the General Assembly.

So what is this rule? According to PW, the library would have to certify “the collection development policies of all public libraries in the state as a condition of receiving state funds, although there is no mention of what certification would involve.”

Vague much?

But wait. It gets better.

“When state dollars are involved, we want to bring back local control and parental involvement in determining what children are exposed to,” Ashcroft, a Republican, said in a statement. “Foremost, we want to protect our children.”

That sounds all well and good but it isn’t exactly what this “rule” would do. First, as noted above, the proposal has the potential to impact not only state funded dollars but also monies from other sources. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see that as keeping control on a local level–not when the state is threatening to take away all funding, no matter what the source, if you don’t play by their rules. Then, how is doing something at the state level anything close to the local level? Shouldn’t the municipality where the library is located have a greater say in what the parents and children of their community want when it comes to their local library?

But there’s more.

Again from the PW article linked above:

Furthermore, the rule prohibits state funds from buying any materials deemed to “appeal to the prurient interests of any minor” and would bar “age-inappropriate materials in any form” from being displayed in areas “predominantly” serving minors.

I really hope there is some qualifying language in Ashcroft’s proposal because otherwise this could bar a library from buying anything most adults would want to read. You like reading romance? Too bad. It might have a sex scene in it. That would appeal to the “prurient interests of any minor”.

And note the “any minor” language.

All it would take is one parent saying their little darling was tantalized by a book or its cover and that book is gone and the library risks being penalized for it.

But here is one of the issues that really bothers me. This so-called rule would allow anyone–They don’t have to be a parent. They don’t have to live in the community. Hell, they don’t have to live in the state.–to challenge a book or event sponsored by the library.

Again, where is the local control?

Going through more of the information on the bill, libraries would be hamstrung coming and going. In order to make sure a kid doesn’t read something someone–and remember, it doesn’t matter who challenges a book–thinks inappropriate, the libraries will have to monitor not only what is checked out but what kids are looking at while at the library. They will have to take note of what books are visible on displays in the library that minors might see going from the entrance of the building to the designated areas set up for non-adults.

Where is the extra money for that going to come from?

And what about those parents who actually want to encourage their kids to read and don’t limit them to reading the so-called age appropriate material contained in the library? The only way a library is really going to be able to enforce Ashcroft’s idiotic rule is to refuse to allow kids to check out anything that isn’t designated appropriate for their age. That means kids like I was back in the dark ages or my son or any number of others who read above their age level will be left searching for something that not only interests them but challenges them as well.

Then there’s the question of who certifies a book or video or whatever to be age appropriate? How are those decisions going to be made?

This entire “rule” is so rife for abuse that it isn’t funny.

And Ashcroft is an idiot if he thinks for one minute that anyone who actually reads the rule will believe he wants to leave the decision about what a child reads to the parents and local communities. This is yet another example of the state interfering on not only a local but a family level.

As a taxpayer, I’d be more than a little concerned about this sort of interference from Ashcroft and his office. As a librarian, I’d be terrified. Such a vague rule, especially one allowing anyone, even someone from outside the community, to challenge books that may have been requested by any number of locals and when such challenges could impact my funding, would make my blood run cold. (Yes, I know that is a terrible sentence.)

But as a parent, I’d be furious. I don’t want or need the state telling me what my kids should be able to read. It is bad enough they are forced to read some of the crap they have to for school. You know the books I’m talking about: books about incest, rape, drug abuse, and more.

I would rather have my kid check out a book I might not approve of and then read it with them, discussing it along the way than to say no one should be able to read books I (or anyone else) approve of.

Anyway, this is all a long-winded way of saying politicians shouldn’t tell us they want to keep control in local hands when all they want is control in their hands. Let me raise my kids and decide what they should read. Honestly, I wanted my son to read things I might not approve of because it did lead to discussions and it led to him learning things he wouldn’t have otherwise. In order to give him the opportunity to read a wide variety of material, I relied on our local libraries. I wouldn’t be able to do so under Ashford’s “rule”.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the nanny state, be it on a state or federal level, raising our kids. You shouldn’t either.

And for those of you who might say Ashford is only trying to protect our kids from x-idea or y-idea, remember this. The sort of rule this is can be used later to “protect” our children from ideas and stories you value. Is this really the sort of Pandora’s Box you want to open?


Featured image created using Midjourney AI


  1. Nod. It’s a classic example of a Law that might be used against “your enemies” but could be used against “you”.

  2. You know, if you want to ban Pantiless-Drag-Queen-Story-Hour in your state, then the existing obscenity laws should cover it. If you want to ban Drag Queen Story Hour regardless of Pantiness, then ban Drag Queen Story Hour. Stupid vaguely worded laws are stupid and should be cause for tarring and feathering.

    1. If that was all, it would be bad enough. But this vaguely worded “rule” would let anyone–and it would only take one person to cause a book to be removed–challenge a book or program. It’s all supposed to “protect our kids” and give parents power, but it does none of that. It gives the power to special interest groups and the state.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.