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Proposed Missouri Book Ban Could Jail librarians for Loaning 'Inappropriate' Content

Written by Brent Haney and Kendall Haney

In Missouri right now there is a debate going on asking “Should we fire librarians for presenting questionable material? Should we even send them to jail with a $500 fine and a misdemeanor?” When I first heard this, I thought librarians were already banned from having questionable material like any other citizen. Kind of like R. Kelly is sitting in a prison cell now. Turns out, questionable material that your not so favorite 80s pop star might favor isn’t what is on the minds of Missouri law makers. They are more inclined to worry about the more typical books and the people who might read them to your children. Allow me to share with you my opinion on this: have these parents heard of the internet? If I really, really wanted something scandalous like Huckleberry Finn read to me by a guy dressed in drag, I could do it. And, I wouldn’t need a library card, my parents’ permission, or even (gasp), a librarian. But that was just the first thought. Turns out drag queens who read more books to children than your average parent is exactly what the Missouri legislature is worried about if we make a couple of leaps of thought. Right now, he is just worried I like drag queens at the library.

The Missouri House Rep. Ben Baker suggested a bill that could create a “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act," where there would basically be a board of parents deciding what the library should have or should not have. Specifically the bill “proposes that libraries create a parental review panel that would evaluate whether content provided by the library is “age-inappropriate sexual material.” The panels would be made up of five residents who are not library employees. Under the bill, libraries could lose state funding for failing to comply, and a library employee who “willfully neglects or refuses to perform any duty” of the legislation could face a misdemeanor charge and, if convicted, be fined up to $500 and sentenced up to a year in jail.“

Now before anyone accuses me of being about as fair and balanced as a Fox News broadcast, this legislation was introduced in response to a drag queen who likes to read to kids at the library. That’s it. Nothing else. Which means my steady diet of Freddie Mercury, and every cross-dressing comedian and thespian out there needs to come under review by this panel prior to their style, art, or ideals being served to the masses.

This legislation forces us to ask a slew of questions. Don’t the parents have anything better to do than worry about drag queens? Apparently, some don’t. Also does this board speak for all parents? Apparently, it would. Is this a gateway drug for legislators to start banning other things? Yep. I think so. Like businesses they don’t like.

When we blame the librarian for bringing in questionable content, we dismiss the reality of a librarian’s boots on the ground. Most of these librarians didn’t originally bring in said content. What books or people who read them were not exactly the librarian’s choice. It was what or who was available. We don’t always get what we asked for. Decent Brenda from church had better things to do than risk getting lice reading to Polly Poopy Pants.

In addition, when I have visited a library (yes, I have visited one…smells like books), I often ask for a book having failed at the Dewey Decimal System online primer. Let’s assume they don’t have it. I live in a small town, so they usually don’t. They then usually say, “Mr. Haney, You handsome you who comes to the library like a good boy should, I don’t have that book. May I order it for you?” I say, “Sure, and can I get a side of fries with that?”

Okay, maybe not the fries.

But let’s talk about my predilection for scandalous library material. I haven’t seen anything that particularly raised a brow. I suppose when I saw Atlas Shrugged sitting on a shelf and walked right passed it, the librarian might have sighed in a not so naughty way. But outside of that, there isn’t a whole lot I could label scandalous at the library. It could be because libraries are good at regulating themselves. “Cynthia Dudenhoffer, the president of the Missouri Library Association, said she was shocked when she first heard about the bill and said it was unnecessary. Each of the state's library systems, which account for a total of 365 branches, already have their own protocols in place to determine which materials are allowed for their younger members.”

Do we remember the original Star Wars trilogy where the exact reason why the rebellion had to take down the Empire was because they were threatening everyone who did not comply? Basically, if you don’t follow the “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act," that essentially makes them the emperor. They are attempting to control what libraries have to offer: what you get to read or think about it in a neutral place. You might think that it is just libraries. It starts with libraries and then it turns to businesses. Let’s let elected city folks make zoning laws and allow unelected library officials to create library policies.

Don’t make me become Luke Skywalker. I’ve got a light-pen. And occasionally, it looks like a sword.


ABC News, ABC News Network,

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