Maryville Public Library’s contents could change due to a new state bill that adds a parental board to decide what goes into public libraries.
House Bill No. 2044 Sec. 182.821 or the “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act” calls for a board of five adults to determine what content public libraries can carry and what is and isn’t age-appropriate.
The bill was read for the second time in the House Jan. 9, and no new hearings have been scheduled. According to the legislation, if the bill were to pass both the House and Senate, its proposed effective date would be Aug. 28 of this year with the governor’s signature.
Maryville libraries already have an organized process to determine what books are approved, a choice that would be limited if the new bill passes.
Stephanie Patterson, the director of Maryville Public Library, expressed concerns regarding the proposed bill.
“Public librarians are already under local citizen oversight by means of their executive library boards,” Patterson said.
The executive board is mostly made up of local citizens who are in charge of setting all library policies. There is also a policy in place that allows local citizens to challenge any titles in the library.
“Like most, if not all, public libraries, Maryville Public Library has a procedure in place for local citizens to challenge materials added to the collection,” Patterson said.
On top of these methods, Patterson also provided a detailed list of how they decide what to add in the library. Some of these include: looking at what’s popular, taking recommendations from citizens and focusing on specific age groups.
“My biggest concern with this bill is the additional bureaucratic burden it places on library directors across the state,” Patterson said. “Many of us already struggle to keep our Executive Board seats filled.”
Representative Ben Baker, R-Mo., proposed the new library bill in order to keep minors away from content deemed “age-inappropriate.”
Patterson said the bill would add unnecessary steps in the book choosing process.
“Mr. Baker’s bill would force library directors to create a completely redundant board,” Patterson said.
The “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act,” as defined by the bill, is directed towards libraries that are readily available to all ages, so the B.D. Owens library is unlikely to be affected by the bill.
Carolyn Johnson, a librarian at B.D. Owens library, said the current proposed bill wouldn’t affect a college or university library, because the demographic is catered towards adults.
“Our audience is not minors, so I don’t think this current proposed bill would affect a college library,” Johnson said.
While this act wouldn’t have much effect on the library on campus, Johnson still voiced her concerns.
“I think it is unnecessary,” Johnson said. “I think that parents who are concerned about materials in libraries should monitor their own children but not censor the children of other people.”
If the bill gets passed, public libraries still have the option of turning down government funding in order to keep their current processes.