ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft proposed a rule that would require state-funded public libraries to put policies in place to keep what he calls “non-age-appropriate books and materials” out of the hands of kids.
Ashcroft said this is all about making sure parents are the ones deciding what their kids read.
St. Charles Library officials said they have some concerns about this proposed rule.
“Public libraries have always been about free and equal access for everyone. People should be able to decide for themselves what to read, see or view and parents or guardians should be able to do that for their own children,” St. Charles City-County Library CEO Jason Kuhl said.
Ashcroft said under a new rule he wants state-funded, public libraries to write out policies and guidelines for determining what books and materials are age appropriate.
“They'll have to take responsibility for those policies, they have to make them public. So that their constituents, so that parents, so the taxpayers can see those. And then if there are challenges about the material, they have to have a written public policy to challenge that material. And they have to provide publicly the outcome of any challenge,” Ashcroft said.
Kuhl said they and many other libraries already have a procedure in place.
“We have a review committee read every one of those challenged items and make a determination. I have not seen a sort of a large problem out there with miscategorized books in public libraries. And so I think from my end, I question what problem this is addressing,” Kuhl said.
Ashcroft said this rule proposal comes from a discussion he had at a library director's meeting.
“I used that hyperbole and said, ‘Look, you don't have something for everyone. You don't have books on how to be a child molester for convicted child molesters in your library.’ And I had a library director that said, ‘That's because they won’t publish them.’ And they were serious,” Ashcroft said.
Kuhl said while the library district is still learning about this proposed rule, he’s concerned.
“I think this could be the beginning of a slippery slope, no matter how sort of innocuous these initial sort of steps could look, it could set precedents for more and more restrictive policies in the future,” Kuhl said.
Secretary Ashcroft said he wants people to submit public comments on the proposed rule.
The 30-day public comment period will open Nov. 15 and comments can be submitted by mail to the Office of the Missouri Secretary of State, PO Box 1767, Jefferson City, MO 65102 or by email to email@example.com.