Who knew Missouri residents had such strong opinions about libraries?
After a Sunshine Law request, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft released all the public comments his office received regarding his proposed rule restricting how libraries acquire and display certain books.
The rule prohibits the use of state funds for acquiring materials that “appeal to the prurient interest of any minor” and requires libraries to have a written, publicly accessible policy regarding how sections are arranged for age-appropriateness, as previously reported by The Lion.
“This rule does not require any materials to be kept out of libraries,” Ashcroft told The Lion in December. “It encourages and helps parents to do their job of deciding what their minors will have access to.”
The 20,000 page document was full of comments both for and against the rule, some more colorful than others.
“PLEASE take action to remove any and all sexually explicit material and presentation in our public schools and libraries,” wrote one commenter.
“F–k off,” wrote another.
Many of the critics say the rule amounts to censorship and excessive government overreach.
“I do not want what is available in public libraries paid for by my taxes to be controlled by a group of people on a committee or in our legislature,” wrote Denise Simeone. “Our librarians are competent and trained.”
“[The rule] is the very definition of big government gone to far,” commented China Rusch. “While I understand what you are attempting to accomplish here, what this boils down to is the government stepping in and saying what materials I can and cannot show my children.”
However, many others voiced their agreement with Ashcroft.
“Thousands and thousands of us in the state of Missouri appreciate and applaud your efforts to remove sexually explicit books for our school libraries and we want to support your efforts to remove these materials from the public, tax-payer funded, libraries as well,” wrote Rick and Teresa Long. “Keep fighting for our Missouri families.”
Amber Schwartz, a youth programming specialist at a public library, also affirmed the need for Ashcroft’s rule.
“I can say in full confidence that some of the books that are available to young children and teenagers are not age-appropriate,” Schwartz wrote.
She listed several books that feature sexually explicit themes and images, such as This Book is Gay, Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope, and This Day in June.
“Many libraries feel that measures such as this one are an attack on intellectual freedom, but I think that books like the ones mentioned above are an attack on children,” concluded Schwartz.
“We also agree that libraries are a place of diverse viewpoints and belief systems,” commented Jeremy and Kathleen Moore, “but graphic violence and sexual content has no place in the children and teen sections.”
Ashcroft may enact the rule as soon as March with or without revisions.