State lawmakers set to mandate public library policies
BATON ROUGE, La. (KALB) - In response to the debate in libraries statewide over sexually explicit material in circulation, state lawmakers are looking ahead toward the spring legislative session to make changes.
While the Louisiana Attorney General’s office offered up its solutions to the debate on Tuesday, Feb. 7, with the release of the ‘Protecting Innocence’ report, actual mandates on change can only come through legislation.
“As a lawmaker and a policy maker, we started to work on addressing it with good common sense policy,” said Sen. Heather Cloud (R-District 28), who pre-filed SB7, set to require the adoption of specific policies in public libraries with restrictions around sexually explicit materials.
Cloud claims many public library policies are antiquated and do not adequately address a minor’s access to such materials.
“Our libraries just need to adopt policies that give the parents and their families a choice of what is appropriate for their children,” said Cloud.
Her bill provides definitions of what is considered sexual conduct and sexually explicit. Those definitions do not relate to gender identity or sexual orientation, although the debate in local libraries has centered around whether LGBTQ+ material falls under the definition of sexually explicit.
“As a parent to a parent, no matter what walk of life, I feel confident that we all would agree as moms and dads that our children should not be exposed to those sorts of contents too early,” said Cloud.
SB7 proposes a few changes, like a reformed library card system, which could look at levels of access to material as a juvenile.
The exact method and mechanics of how that policy would be applied would be left up to the local library board of controls, Cloud explained, but the AG’s report would be a resource for guidance.
The report proposes levels to the card system for juveniles. For instance, a ‘juvenile full restriction card’ would only allow the cardholder to check out material from the children’s collections, while a ‘juvenile unrestricted card’ would allow the cardholder to check out any material from any section of the library, including R-rated DVDs with parental permission.
“This is just a common sense approach. It’s the same thing, as I say, that parents do when they set restrictions and guardrails and parameters on devices, and whenever they’re purchasing video games for their children, and whenever they’re setting up their Netflix accounts.”
Whether the card system changes would require additional costs is still undetermined, but Cloud said that is something currently being looked into.
SB7 would also require all libraries to adopt policies requiring book collection to be aligned with community standards in each library system, as well as implement a procedure for reconsidering materials that may raise concerns with some parents. Those materials would go through a review process, including a majority vote before the library board of control, on whether the material meets the definition of sexually explicit.
“It’s a common sense approach. I don’t want to go too far to the right. I don’t want to go too far to the left. And I want to keep some control at the local level and protections for our libraries and our library boards of control to make those decisions,” explained Cloud.
However, libraries that fail to adopt the policies by January 1, 2024, would be subject to repercussions, including funding restrictions and a prohibition on conducting business with the State Bond Commission.
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