Fighting for the Right to Read in Missouri

So the other day I was catching up on a bit of podcast listening. After zipping through all the self-promotional material at the start of the podcast, I finally got to the meat of the Sell More Books Show during which they present a few tips and then five news items related to writing, reading, and publishing.

Normally these “news” items don’t catch my interest. This time though, I was floored by news that a parent group in Missouri wants to ban books from their libraries and, AND, if any librarian dared to allow those banned books to fall into the hands of young readers, that librarian could be jailed for up to a year.

Wait. What? Did this podcast just start relating dystopian fiction?

Nope. It’s real. And it’s really scary.

The bill hasn’t passed (yet), but it proposes that a board of people (not librarians, mind you) will have the say over what books the young readers of Missouri should and shouldn’t be allowed to read.

Now, I get you may not want your kid picking up the Madonna book Sex. But isn’t that up to you as a parent to monitor what YOUR kid is checking out? Maybe some other parent sees that book as a perfectly viable way for their kid to learn anatomy, photography, and the levels of human flexibility.

The people behind the bill complain that at libraries in their state, their children (who I guess never turn on TV or the internet?) are being exposed to objectionable material in an unsafe environment.

Let me repeat that…they think of libraries as unsafe environments.

WTF?

I can’t wrap my head around this. I started going to libraries before I can ever remember. I had no desire to venture into the adult section (which was not physically separated from the kiddie section) because the kids books were way fun.

My mom was there the whole time and she’d see what I picked out. I don’t recall her ever telling me to put anything back because it was inappropriate, but if she had done so she would have been perfectly right to tell HER kid what to do.

But it was not her job to regulate what someone else’s kid chose to read and definitely not in her rights to regulate the reading choices of a whole state.

And we’re not just talking about young readers being affected. The panel lists books such as those by Sherman Alexie and Kurt Vonnegut as books that should not be allowed in the libraries because some kid’s delicate eyes might land on it.

So, if this bill passes and you want to read about the modern culture of an American Indian or the World War II tragedies of a pacifist/socialist, you might be out of luck because I don’t understand how you would keep kids from seeing it otherwise. Those books would have to be completely removed from the library altogether.

After all, as with the local library of my childhood, not every library has the space or the means to put up a solid wall between the children’s and adult sections.

Should any library try to go against the rulings of one of these Uptight Big Brother panels, that library risks losing all its funding and the troublemaking librarian can end up receiving a 12-month jail term.

…all for allowing Kurt Vonnegut’s entertaining and wise words to loiter on the library shelves within view of some kid.

As James Tager of PEN America (from a press release put out by PEN) puts it:

“Every reader and writer in the country should be horrified, absolutely horrified, at this bill. The fact that a librarian could actually be imprisoned under this act for following his or her conscience and refusing to block minors from access to a book, tells you all you need to know about the suitability of this act within a democratic society.”

Thankfully, Missouri libraries are absolutely against this. The Missouri Library Association (in an article on The Guardian) said it was opposing the bill, because it “will always stand against censorship and for the freedom to read” and added…

“Public libraries already have procedures in place to assist patrons in protecting their own children while not infringing on the rights of other patrons or restricting materials.”

As you know, I love libraries. I love books. I love reading. News like this disgusts me in a way that I thought only a public toilet overflowing with poo could.

If you live in Missouri, I hope you have time to get a call or email into your representative** to stop this. If you live anywhere else, watch out, because if this passes, it may spread with coronavirus efficiency to a library near you.

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**If you live in Missouri THIS LINK will take you to a list of members in your state’s House of Representatives. The listing includes phone numbers and, if you click on the name, will show you the rep’s email address.

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20 thoughts on “Fighting for the Right to Read in Missouri

  1. I live in Missouri, and I am absolutely disgusted by this bill. It shows just how terrible human beings can be. Parents should be responsible for the material that their children read, not the library. They are there as a resource. Completely ridiculous.

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    1. Glad to hear there are Missourians who won’t stand for this. I’m not sure what bubble these people are keeping their kids in, but trust me, the library is NOT the place kids are being exposed to the horrors of the world.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Flabbergasted is a perfect word for this. On the podcast, they were laughing because they couldn’t believe it. It just seems too ridiculous to be true. Unfortunately, it is. Thanks for stopping by :))

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  2. So, have I got this right? If this bill passes a child will be banned from borrowing unsavoury books, and a librarian can be jailed if they do, but the same child may be shot at school because of lack of gun controls.

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    1. You understand America perfectly, Anne! And don’t forget, if the kid is only wounded in the shooting, the parents will go bankrupt with the medical bills.

      Actually, the kids aren’t banned from the library, any supposedly “unwholesome” books will be. And if not banned entirely, the books are supposed to somehow be kept completely out of reach and sight of the kids (really tall shelves?) because if the kids happen to see or reach the books, the library will lose funding and the librarians might be jailed. The more I type this, the more ridiculous (and scary) I find it.

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      1. Hmmm… But then those have to be dumped out somewhere, and who wants a toxic ideas landfill in their neighbourhood? The real solution is to get people to stop having dumb ideas in the first place 🙄

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