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Public libraries could lose state funding after Missouri house proposes budget cut

The budget cut proposal comes after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued to overturn new Missouri law banning certain "explicit" library books.

MISSOURI, USA — Public libraries in Missouri could soon lose millions of dollars in funding after the Missouri House of Representatives proposed a cut to all of the state's public libraries.

The budget cut proposal comes after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued to overturn new Missouri law banning certain library books.

Missouri Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee member Joe Kohlburn said if approved, the budget cut will do more harm than good.   

“The Missouri Library Association and the Missouri Association of School Librarians don’t get state funding," he said. "We don’t get any money from the state, we are a membership organization.”

That new law, effective as of August 28, 2022, makes it a crime if teachers or librarians provide visually 'explicit' sexual material to a student at private or public schools.

Republican Senator Rick Brattin created the amendment targeting books in Missouri.

“We want kids to read books that allow them different perspectives, but at the same time protecting their innocence and we have a moral obligation to do that," he said.

Kohlburn said the current lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the Missouri Libraries Association (MLA) and the Missouri Association of School Librarians, is no more than people standing up for personal and professional beliefs.

“People pay their individual membership dues and everyone in charge over here is all volunteer, and then on top of that the ACLU is doing this case pro bono, for free. So, no state money is going to this lawsuit," he said.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Cody Smith (R-Carthage) proposed this cut. Kohlberg said people should be aware of who this budget cut would really impact.

“A lot of the folks whose representatives in the state house voted for this bill are the people who are going to be most impacted by not having as much access to library programs," he said.

He also said these impacts could be widespread for public libraries.

“That’s going to mean less extensive collections, less extensive programming, shorter library hours," he said.

The bill now needs to make it through the Senate and the governor's office.

The ACLU of Missouri also shared this statement:

"The house budget committee’s choice to retaliate against two private, volunteer-led organizations by punishing the patrons of Missouri’s public libraries is abhorrent. As with every case when the ACLU represents someone, we are not charging our clients to challenge the unconstitutional book ban the legislature passed last year. If the members of the committee are concerned about preserving taxpayer funds, they should stop enacting laws they know do not meet constitutional muster, not burden local governments in a misguided effort to silence organizations who object to the legislature’s overreach."

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