By Troy Treasure
If one state legislator gets his way, public libraries in Missouri would be policed by citizens committees.
Representative Ben Baker (R-Neosho) introduced House Bill 2044 this month that would require libraries to create review boards regulating events and content about subjects deemed “age-inappropriate sexual material.”
Libraries that refuse would be denied state funding. Librarians would be subject to arrest.
“There is something in the bigger cities called the drag queen story hour. They’ve been in St. Louis, in St. Joseph, from what I understand. Some people didn’t like that,” Shelbina Carnegie Public Library Director Christina Bartholomew said.
“His whole context of this bill is to stop that kind of programming from coming into your public libraries.”
The Missouri Library Association opposes Baker’s bill. MLA president Cynthia Dudenhoffer said in a press release her organization stands against censorship.
If House Bill 2044 were to become law, all residents of a library’s district would be eligible to serve on a review board.
“The top-five vote getters would form this committee to pick out my library books,” Bartholomew said. “It is my understanding that they would have complete control over what was displayed.”
The Shelbina Carnegie Public Library currently has a nine-person volunteer board. Its primary role is to approve payment of the facility’s bills and decide maintenance issues.
Bartholomew indicated the library staff makes the well-being of children a priority. She cited an example.
“I had a little girl who came in who can’t read yet but has older siblings,” Bartholomew said. “She thought the Grimms’ Fairy Tales book looked neat and thought it would be a good book to take home.
“I talked to her sisters about the gory stuff in it,” Bartholomew, a former English teacher, continued. “I suggested she not check that book out until she was older.”
In addition, the Shelbina Carnegie Public Library’s computers have blocking mechanisms prohibiting patrons of any age access to gambling, pornographic or violent videogame websites.