Idaho Senate passes bill to restrict availability of books ‘harmful to minors’ in public libraries News
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Idaho Senate passes bill to restrict availability of books ‘harmful to minors’ in public libraries

The Idaho Senate approved House Bill No. 710 Wednesday, which declares that a school or public library shall not promote or make available any conduct that is deemed harmful to minors. The bill, which is known as the Children’s School and Library Protection Act, could make libraries and schools subject to possible lawsuits based upon challenges to allegedly harmful books and other available media.

Under the bill, if library or school officials don’t remove or relocate the material to an adults-only section within 60 days after a complaint, it will be left to a judge to determine whether the book is truly harmful. If the judge deems it is harmful, libraries and schools would be subject to $250 in statutory damages, actual damages and any legal fees. 

President of the Idaho Library Association Lance McGrath urged library supporters to contact the governor’s office and urge him to veto the bill. McGrath addressed the adverse affects the bill may potentially have on libraries in his press release,

The Idaho Library Association is very concerned about the adverse impact this bill, should it become law will have on Idaho libraries and their mission to serve all members of their communities. Complying with a law that uses vague and subjective definitions of what constitutes harmful material to minors, coupled with the penalty of $250 per offense plus legal fees, could result in significantly limited access to information for adult patrons and would be particularly harmful for minors who rely on the library for homework, programs, computers, and meeting space.

The Library Association were not the only ones to express concerns about the bill. Senator Mary Shea described the bill as a major threat to Idaho libraries. Staff will be forced to reallocate resources to fighting in court. She also said that it would be very easy for a person to misplace a book deemed harmful in the wrong section, causing a potential lawsuit.

Senator Rob Taylor joined the argument against the bill and said this was not the proper solution. He urged parents to be a more prominent part of children’s lives. He claimed that parents should be more worried about what children are viewing on their phones and video games than in the library.

The bill is currently awaiting approval from Idaho Governor Brad Little. If the bill is approved, it will become law in Idaho.