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Donnelly Public Library will become adults-only to comply with new 'library porn' law

Donnelly Public Library's log cabin with various shrubs and trees featured in the landscaping.
Donnelly Public Library
Donnelly Public Library is becoming an adults-only library beginning July 1, 2024, after the passage of a bill requiring libraries to separate "harmful" materials from minors.

Donnelly Public Library will no longer allow anyone under 18 to visit unless accompanied by a parent starting July 1.

That’s due to the implementation of House Bill 710 passed earlier this year, which requires all libraries – both public and private – to relocate a book to an adults-only section within 60 days of receiving a written complaint.

If the library declines to do so, it could face a civil lawsuit under the law. That comes with a mandatory $250 fine for the library and plaintiffs could receive uncapped damages.

“Our size prohibits us from separating our ‘grown up’ books to be out of the accessible range of children,” the library’s statement reads, noting it’s only 1,024 square feet.

Donnelly library director Sherry Scheline compared the new policy to a parent being able to bring their child to a liquor store.

“Your kid could even give you suggestions at the liquor store, but your kid cannot take anything off the shelf at the liquor store,” Scheline said.

Only kids participating in the library’s paid programming and whose parents sign a waiver will be given free access to the 13,000-item collection, she said.

Minors won’t be allowed to even use the library’s restroom unless they’re a program participant or accompanied by a parent.

Scheline said it’s the last choice she wanted to make, but that she doesn’t have the resources to fight a lawsuit.

“Because we don’t have an attorney on retainer, we can’t take those chances. We need to let it be fought out by somebody other than a small and rural library.”

According to the Idaho Commission for Libraries, Donnelly Public Library is the first organization in the state to make such a policy change to comply with the legislation.

Supporters of the law argue libraries are allowing those under 18 to access “harmful” materials and “pornography.” Many of the books they cite as examples have LGBTQ characters and themes or are sex education materials.

A request for comment from Gov. Brad Little wasn’t immediately returned.

Little vetoed a similar bill in 2023, writing the legislation “will have unintended consequences for Idaho libraries and their patrons.”

“Many of our fondest memories as children are venturing down to our local library and immersing ourselves in the sea of books and knowledge,” Little wrote, noting that libraries are a “critical component” to enhancing literacy across the state.

The governor signed this year’s version, saying the lowered mandatory fine helped ease his concerns that the law would be used as a punitive cudgel.

Donnelly Public Library is urging its patrons to donate to the library’s building fund as a way to help it comply with the law by expanding its footprint.

The shovel-ready project would triple the facility’s footprint, but Scheline said they still need about $630,000 to fund the $1.5 million expansion.

If constructed, she said it would allow them to lift the upcoming policy change by having dedicated youth and adult sections on opposite sides of the building.

Copyright 2024 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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