Citing concerns about “unintended adverse consequences,” the Kansas City Public Library Board of Trustees is calling for the rejection or revision of a measure proposed by Missouri’s secretary of state regarding protections for minors from “non-age-appropriate materials” in libraries.
The nine-person Library board unanimously approved a resolution opposing the prospective new administrative rule in its current form on Tuesday, December 6. The proposal, drawn up by the office of Secretary of State John R. (Jay) Ashcroft, is now subject to a 30-day comment period ending December 15. It is also subject to review by the state’s joint committee on administrative rules, composed of 10 state senators and representatives.
The Library board resolution urges the joint committee “to reject … or, alternately, to refine the proposed rule to further clarify the certification elements” it contains.
The rule would require state-funded libraries to create collection development policies and public programming guidelines that shield minors from non-age-appropriate books and other materials – even though the Kansas City Public Library, like most if not all others, already has policies for identifying the proper age groups for titles spanning a range of voices, interests, and experiences.
The secretary of state’s proposal would allow parents to challenge age designations. A library deemed in violation could forfeit appropriated funds from the Missouri State Library, an amount reaching in many cases into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The KCPL board joined its librarians and libraries and librarians across the state in expressing deep concerns. While the secretary of state’s proposed rule does not say the state would remove materials from library collections, it could serve as a tool for censorship, empowering individuals to instigate action. The state would back them with the threat of withholding funding from noncompliant library systems.
In their resolution, the Library’s trustees affirm their defense of patrons’ “freedom to read” and “the sole right and responsibility of the parent or guardian to determine what library material is appropriate for their children.” Individual public libraries, they say, should determine their own policy and collection development policies.
The board’s 277-word resolution also notes that the state rule, if enacted, could bring “heightened costs of compliance and possible reduction in service to library patrons.” Ashcroft’s office says it would cost individual libraries no more than $500, but the Kansas City Public Library estimates the amount at $60,000 to $80,000 – in large part arising from hundreds of additional hours of staff work time.
The board resolution in full:
RESOLUTION OPPOSING 15 CSR 30-200.015 LIBRARY CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENT FOR THE PROTECTION OF MINORS SUBMITTED BY THE MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE
WHEREAS, the Kansas City Public Library Board of Trustees believes that the right to read and public access to library resources are important parts of the intellectual freedom that is basic to democracy;
WHEREAS, the Kansas City Public Library Board of Trustees upholds the belief that responsibility for a child’s reading must rest with the parent or guardian, not with the library;
WHEREAS, the Kansas City Public Library Board of Trustees estimates that expenses associated with complying with 15 CSR 30-200.015 will far exceed the $500 expense specified in the proposed rule; and
WHEREAS, the Kansas City Public Library Board of Trustees is concerned about the unintended adverse consequences – among which include heightened costs of compliance and possible reduction in service to library patrons – that enactment of 15 CSR 30-200.015 in its present form could bring.
RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees of the Kansas City Public Library:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees of the Kansas City Public Library:
ADOPTED by the Board of Trustees of the Kansas City Public Library this 6th day of December 2022.
Submit your comment to the secretary of state’s office
Missouri residents, and nonresidents, have until Thursday, December 15.
- Email: email@example.com with the proposed rule number, 15 CSR 30-200.015, in the subject field.
- Mail: Missouri Secretary of State, P.O. Box 1767, Jefferson City, MO 65102