Read On! Parental Guidance

A legislator in Missouri is causing quite the kerfuffle in the library world. The proposed “Parental Oversight of Libraries Act” would require public libraries in Missouri to have a board in addition to their regular Board of Trustees to ensure libraries aren’t providing children access to materials the new panels find age-inappropriate. Loss of state funding for the libraries and fines and/or jail time for the librarians are the proposed penalties in this legislation. 

There’s a lot to unpack here. There’s a lot wrong with this bill and a lot of good reasons for librarians and library users to be appalled by it. At its core, this legislation fails to understand the relationship public libraries have with parents, guardians, and caregivers. Parental oversight already exists in public libraries. In fact, public libraries rely on parents and caregivers to help the children in their lives choose materials and activities that are appropriate for them and in line with the values of their families.

In Pryor, parents/guardians are required to sign children up for library cards. They also need to grant permission before any minor can access an internet computer. We assume any minor in the building has permission to be there. We also assume that any materials a child wants to check out have been vetted by their parents. 

Your library staff would never presume to step between a child and their parent by telling a child they are not allowed to read or watch something because of its content. As a parent, I would have some very serious words coupled with a fairly harsh tone for anyone who tries to override my parenting in such a way. Especially if that interference came from an institution whose role is to provide access to materials and information for a diverse and vibrant community.

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