ST. LOUIS–An administrative rule which would tie a public library’s ability to receive state funding to having published policies for age-appropriate material will go into effect at the end of May without changes, as state lawmakers left for their spring recess ahead of a deadline for an oversight hearing.
The rule, proposed last fall by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, would require libraries to post a written policy allowing “any minor’s parent or guardian to determine what materials and access will be available to a minor, and no person employed by or acting on behalf of the library shall knowingly grant access to any minor any material in any form not approved by the minor’s parent or guardian.”
The rule change was opposed by the Missouri Library Association, The ACLU and the Missouri Association of School Librarians over fears that it will lead to censorship. Ashcroft critics contend the rule was about appealing to a GOP primary audience in a likely run for Governor in 2024.
The state received more than 16,000 comments from the public on the rule, which had a deadline of March 10 to be reviewed by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. The legislative panel did not hold a hearing on the proposal. Lawmakers adjourned Thursday for their spring break and will return March 20.
The next steps are all administrative, meaning the rule will take effect as written on May 30.
“When people actually read it they’ll understand that it’s a good substantive rule but I also think there’s been a decent amount of publicity so people know about the rule,” Ashcroft told Spectrum News Wednesday. “We really did a lot to try and make sure the word got out so people could give us their comments and frankly if parents don’t know about the rule and when they find out about it, I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
The process in Missouri comes as Illinois proposes legislation that would tie state funding to prohibitions on book bans because of partisan or personal disapproval.