The National Coalition Against Censorship joins with the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom in opposing a proposed bill in Missouri that threatens the freedom to read in the state’s public libraries.
Missouri House Bill 2044, known as the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act, calls for the creation of parental library review boards to identify and restrict materials those boards deems age-inappropriate for children. In addition, the bill proposes criminal prosecution for librarians who make those materials available to minors and would deny funding to libraries that do not employ parental library review boards to restrict access to their materials.
The American Library Association issued the following statement in response to the bill:
“Missouri House Bill 2044 clearly proposes policies and procedures that threaten library users’ freedom to read and violate our deeply held commitment to families’ and individuals’ intellectual freedom, as expressed in ALA’s Library Bill of Rights,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, OIF director and Executive Director of the Freedom to Read Foundation. “We support the right of families and individuals to choose materials from a diverse spectrum of ideas and beliefs. Public libraries already have procedures in place that assist parents in selecting materials that fit their family’s information needs, while not censoring materials or infringing upon the rights of other families or patrons to choose the books they want and need. ALA is working strategically with the Missouri Library Association to identify the best means to address this legislation.”
The Missouri Library Association has also issued a statement on Twitter.
Supporters of free speech are concerned about the bill’s creation of library review boards elected by a minority of community members with the power to overrule trained librarians and materials collection professionals. Such boards open the door to viewpoint censorship in which the personal views and beliefs of some determine library policy for all community members.
NCAC will continue to support the American Library Association and Missouri Library Association in protecting the rights of Missourians to read freely, access information and explore ideas.