Short-term victory? Following up on bills to criminally charge librarians
Most state legislative session are wrapping up this time of year, so it’s time to revisit my previous post regarding bills introduced in multiple states that would allow librarians to be criminally charged over materials in the library collection. Two other states introduced bills after I wrote my last post, so let’s quickly review the bills in question.
Indiana, legislative session ended March 8
Senate Bill 17
Overview: Removes language from Indiana code granting protections to schools and libraries for disseminating “harmful material” for educational purposes
Status: Passed in the Senate (34-15), House Committee on Education never voted on bill. Not Passed
Iowa, legislative session ended May 24
Overview: Adds new section to Iowa State Code, “Dissemination of obscene material to minors by a public or private elementary or secondary school or library or public library,” which would be punishable by up to two years in jail
Status: House Judiciary Committee never voted on bill. Not Passed
Tennessee, legislative session ended May 7
Overview: Adds to the current obscene materials law that education exception does not apply to local education agencies, public/charter schools, or school libraries
Status: Passed in the House (63-24), deferred to Summer Study in the Senate. Not Passed
Idaho, legislative session ended March 31
Overview: Removes language from Idaho State Code granting protections to schools, colleges, and libraries for disseminating “harmful materials” for educational purposes
Status: Passed in the House (51-14), not heard in Senate. Not Passed
Fortunately, as the legislative season concludes, none of these bills were enacted into law. It is unsettling to that in three states their bill passed one chamber of the state legislature. This shows that certain lawmakers do want to proceed with criminally charging librarians for what they deem as harmful materials. In all three cases, the bills were largely passed along party lines with only Republicans voting in support. Five, two, and one republican broke party lines to vote against the bills in Indiana, Idaho, and Tennessee respectively.
While these bills passed, we should unfortunately review bills that don’t quite aim to criminally charge librarians, but otherwise target their work. These two bills seemed to have flown under the radar but nevertheless have been passed.
Overview: Requires school boards to develop policies for handling complaints over materials, and school principals would have seven business days to review complains that a given book is obscene and “lacking in serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”
House Vote: 97 (84R, 3D)-61 (61D)
Senate Vote: 29-21
Status: Passed, Signed by Governor
Overview: Requires public review of all school library books. Schools would have to post a list of books being requested for purchase, and parents and the “community at large”
Senate Vote: 16 (16R)-12 (12D)
House Vote: 31 (31R)-26 (26D)
Status: Passed, Signed by Governor
As this wave of targeting libraries continues, don’t forget that the Office for Intellectual Freedom can assist you and your library. Read more here about Intellectual Freedom Consulting Services.
David Sye is a Research and Instruction Librarian at Murray State University in southwestern Kentucky. He is liaison for the History, Political Science & Sociology, and Psychology departments, as well as teaching instruction sessions and credit-bearing courses on information literacy. He holds a BA in History from the University of Illinois at Springfield, in addition to an MA in History and MLIS from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Prior to working at Murray State University, he has worked in public libraries and briefly taught middle school social studies.