Public comment period opens for Missouri secretary of state’s proposed library rule

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 6:28 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A public comment period opened Tuesday on a proposed rule by the Missouri secretary of state that would put tighter restrictions on books at libraries that receive state funding.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office submitted the proposed rule, which would establish a certification requirement for libraries receiving state funds.

Ashcroft says he is proposing the rule to protect kids from inappropriate materials at state-funded libraries. Opponents say the rule is a divisive infringement on the professional judgement of librarians. In addition, opponents say a library deemed noncompliant could have to forfeit appropriated funds from the Missouri State Library.

Ashcroft proposed that libraries would adopt written policies determining what material is age-appropriate and state funds could not be used to purchase or acquire inappropriate materials in any form that appeal to minors having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters.

“A library should be free and open for people to explore their own feelings and read and make their own judgement on what is right and what’s wrong,” library visitor Jim Hogan said. “It’s not up to politicians to decide that.”

Under the proposed rule, libraries would also be required to honor a parent’s decision as to what material their child has access to in the library. Parents could also challenge a library’s age-appropriate designation for any material.

“We already have curated teen sections and children’s sections,” library visitor Troy Cummings said. “I think they are doing a great job. I don’t think they need to restrict it more.”

A written statement from the Missouri Library Association said the proposed rule is “an infringement on the professional judgment of librarians, and an effort to further stoke division in the communities that libraries serve. Libraries support access to information and ideas. The placement of books and materials in libraries is something that should be left up to people with training and experience in the profession of librarianship.”

The statement added: “Ashcroft’s proposed changes also place undue burden on small and urban libraries by undermining not only their sense of agency but their ability to access information. The libraries who are most in need of state funding and assistance are also the most at risk under the proposed change.”

Click here to read a statement from the Mid-Continent Public Library’s director.

Click here to read a statement from The Kansas City Public Library.

A spokesperson for the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office said Ashcroft was not available for an interview Tuesday. In a previous written statement Ashcroft said, “When state dollars are involved, we want to bring back local control and parental involvement in determining what children are exposed to.”

Ashcroft’s statement went onto say, “Yes, we want to make sure libraries have the resources and materials they need for their constituents, but we also want our children to be ‘children’ a little longer than a pervasive culture many often dictate.”

The Missouri Secretary of State’s Office has three months to decide if they will rewrite the rule based on feedback, submit it as is, or rescind it.

A 30-day comment period is now open until Dec. 15.

Anyone who wishes to comment can submit a comment by mailing it to the Office of the Missouri Secretary of State at P.O. Box 1767, Jefferson City, MO 65102. You can also email your comment to comments@sos.mo.gov.

All comments regarding the proposed rule must be received during the comment period of Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 if this year. And, they must include “15 CSR 30-200.015″ in an email subject line, if submitted via email.