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'Obscene' libraries bill gets a party line vault to the House floor

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Efforts to move so-called “obscene” materials to an adults-only section in Idaho libraries are headed to the House floor.

The bill cleared the House State Affairs Committee Monday along party lines.

The measure would force public and private libraries alike to segregate any book deemed offensive by a single patron upon written request. Rachelle Ottosen from Kootenai County has campaigned against these materials for years, which largely contain LGBTQ themes.

“I support this bill because children are frequently being harmed and corrupted – sometimes permanently – by materials in our schools and libraries, including two-thirds of my own children,” she said.

Ottosen, who’s an elected library trustee in Kootenai County, said such books promote “prostitution, pedophilia and bestiality.” Under the bill, “any act of masturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse” among other things would be considered “sexual conduct.”

Isabella Burgess, a librarian from Meridian, opposed the measure for many reasons. She said it’ll sideline underage workers and volunteers who couldn’t even handle the books under this bill.

“There is no justifiable reason [for the] undue burden this will put on the adult staff members because our teen employees will be legally unable to perform any of their work duties,” Burgess said.

The majority of those who testified Monday opposed the bill, including several other librarians and former educators.

Robert Wright, the director of the Idaho Falls Public Library, said the legislation wouldn’t be practical to implement.

Should it become law, Wright said he would have to completely bar anyone under 18 from accessing the top floor of his library.

His staff currently don’t have a direct eyeline to an elevator and ramp that access the building’s top floor. Wright said he’d have to pay a staff member solely to monitor the area at all times to be in compliance with the legislation.

“We can’t afford to do this. We cannot afford to have a separate area for just adults,” he said.

The full House could debate the measure later this week.

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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. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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