Louisiana bill restricting library materials for minors closer to becoming law

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 8:00 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - A bill that would require libraries across Louisiana to have policies to keep minors from accessing materials deemed sexually explicit appears one step away from final approval in the legislature.

SB 7 by Sen. Heather Cloud (R-Turkey Creek) already passed the full Senate and was heard by the House Education Committee on Tuesday (May 23).

Amanda Jones, president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, called the measure unnecessary and said “mistruths” have resulted in her and other librarians being targeted for criticism.

“I went from being a community leader to an outcast because I am a librarian,” Jones said. “This has affected my child, my husband and my 96-year-old grandmother. As a librarian, I know there already exist policies in our libraries to safeguard children.”

Parent Sancha Noel-Smith addressed lawmakers in support of the bill.

“As a parent, it’s my responsibility to protect the innocence of my children,” she said. “I do not want them exposed prematurely to sexually explicit, pornographic material.”

It was unclear to what library material Noel-Smith was referring. But some opponents think the bill takes aim at library materials referencing LGBTQ topics.

SarahJane Guidry, with Forum for Equality, said, “I find that most of the books, if not the majority of them were LGBTQ in area, right? In discussion? In topic?”

Cloud was joined by Attorney General Jeff Landry as she presented her bill for its first hearing on the House side of the legislature.

“This bill does not require the moving or removal of any books from the library system,” Cloud said. “This only applies to the library cards and the parent being able to set parental controls on that library card. So, basically, they can’t check out the book.”

However, if the legislation becomes law, library users would be able to request that a library reconsider whether certain materials should be included in any collection accessible to minors.

“This would be a book-by-book approach, as a patron challenges the book,” Cloud said.

Rep. Tammy Phelps (D-Shreveport) questioned Landry and one of his staffers about the process of arriving at the bill.

“So, was there any conversation with who really oversees the library?” Phelps asked.

“We had a lot of communication,” Landry said.

“We spoke with some library control boards and some council members as well,” added Landry staffer Emily Andrews. “They kind of all had varying ways that they would deal with it.”

Opponents say the proposed new law is unnecessary and could hurt libraries financially because the bill allows local governing authorities to withhold funding from libraries that fail to adopt the required policies. It also prohibits the state bond commission from considering applications for new debt approval or the levying of taxes for such libraries.

“Every library has a system for which community members can challenge (materials) and we all have reconsideration policies,” Jones said. “Libraries already use the three-prong Miller test to keep obscene materials out of libraries.

“We have never had an issue with our libraries, until they started being used for political gain.”

On a vote of 8-3, the bill advanced to the full House. If it passes without amendments, it would be sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk.

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