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Legislative backlash prompts state library changes

City of Toronto
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The Idaho Commission for Libraries is changing how it will run its electronic materials collection after significant legislative pushback earlier this year.

The policy, which covers e-books and audiobooks, among other things, now explicitly cites sections of Idaho code outlawing the dissemination of materials that could be harmful to children.

Librarians are currently exempt from that law, though legislators unsuccessfully tried to repeal that earlier this year.

They claimed books, which they called pornographic, were being peddled to children.

An investigation by the Idaho Press found nearly all examples given by lawmakers were found in the adult section.

In response to that failure, House Republicans instead pushed through a $3.8 million budget cut to the agency, which would’ve funded a telehealth initiative for rural libraries, as well as an expansion of the commission’s electronic materials collection.

Individual library districts make decisions for their patrons on what materials are available to check out, while the commission offers grants, training and other help to support local branches.

Another change to the commission’s policy includes removing a section that states the commission “recognizes the responsibility of individuals to choose their own reading materials.”

“While a person may reject materials for themselves and their minor children, they may not restrict access to the materials by others,” another stricken section reads.

However, the policy still states the agency “supports the rights and responsibilities of parents or guardians to choose appropriate items for their own minor children.”

The process for challenging any piece of the collection largely remains the same.

Anybody living in Idaho can ask for a book to be removed. Commission staff then would issue a decision to the complaint, which could be appealed to the board of commissioners.

Those materials would remain in circulation during a pending challenge.

No commissioner commented on the policy change Thursday, which will be reviewed annually. They ultimately adopted the proposal unanimously.

At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Michael Strickland thanked agency staff for “…navigating this terrain with so many complexities and some of the hostility, confusion and misinformation.”

An Idaho House interim committee to study “harmful” materials in libraries is supposed to draft a report of its findings and deliver it to lawmakers when they return in January, but it has yet to hold its first meeting.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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