The Missouri Secretary of State’s troubling new proposed rule 15 CSR 30-200.015 is a solution in search of a problem. This proposed rule would require already underfunded public libraries to enact written policies restricting access to material and programs by minors in order to qualify for state funding. While most libraries already have policies on collection development and reconsideration of materials, this proposed rule goes much further by requiring public libraries to define what is ‘prurient’ and ‘age-inappropriate’ for minor children under the age of 18 and would allow any individual, including non-Missouri residents, to challenge those materials.
The creation and enforcement of these additional policies would be financially and practically burdensome for public libraries, forcing librarians to police intellectual access. Definitions of ‘prurient interest’ could be weaponized to remove, brand and restrict access to materials or programs that showcase the stories and experiences of LGBTQ+, BIPOC, women and other historically marginalized communities.
Until now, the decision about what counts as ‘age-inappropriate’ or ‘prurient’ has always been rightfully left up to the individuals who utilize our libraries. Indeed, public libraries are not in the business of telling people what they can read or what to think. We believe in providing free access to information to our patrons. It is the individual right of our community users to make their own decisions about the ideas or viewpoints they espouse.
This proposed rule is a thinly veiled attempt to impose state-sanctioned censorship, one which would force our libraries to wade into the world of politics. Public libraries should remain places of intellectual access and community-building, not tools to restrict rights and create political division. We urge you to email the Secretary of State at email@example.com (using the proposed rule number above) when the 30-day period for public comment opens on November 15.
-Rock Hill Public Library Board of Trustees
Link to proposed rule HERE
Link to League of Women Voters Statement on proposed rule HERE
Link to Missouri Library Association’s Statement on proposed rule HERE
Link to submit a comment via online form HERE
Anyone may file a statement in support of or in opposition to this proposed rule with the Office of the Missouri Secretary of State, PO Box 1767, Jefferson City, MO 65102 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the proposed rule number (i.e., 15 CSR 30-200.015) in the subject line. To be considered, all comments must be received within thirty (30) days after publication of this notice in the Missouri Register.