Tuesday, March 3, 2020

MO: Arresting Librarians

If you haven't already, read this piece from Nancy Bailey that makes two points with crystal clarity and detailed support:

* school librarians are an essential part of teaching reading in school (scientifically or otherwise)

* school librarian jobs are being shed in many major cities at an alarming and distressing thoroughness.

School librarians are essential, and they are a popular target for the budgetary ax. For charters and private schools, they're an easy extra to leave out, and for public schools, they have become a popular corner to cut. Seriously, read that piece, because I have to show you something else working against librarians.

Those winter nights can get cold in Missouri
It's not just things like the law in Florida (motto: "If you want an education for your kids, that's not our problem") that allows parents to challenge any books or materials in a school. At last, a means to stop the school from assigning that smutty Romeo and Juliet. Or anything that the school librarian has  stocked on whatever shelves she has left.

Well, if that seems bad, meet Missouri's own House Bill 2044. It's a bill for funding libraries, but it has a little addition that wats to be called "Personal Oversight of Public Libraries Act." POOPLA will set up an elected censorship board to make sure minors don't have access to any smutty books (I'm paraphrasing here.) POOPLA (I'll warn you right now-- I'm never going to get tired of calling this bill POOPLA) will hold public hearings at which, presumably, members of the public will come to read out the dirty parts of books they want to see banned. POOPLA contains some penalties as well-- big, fat ones:

Any public library personnel who willfully neglects or refuses to perform any duty imposed on a public library under this section, or who willfully violates any provision of this section, is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars or by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year.

That's right. Under POOPLA, let a fifteen year old take out Lady Chatterly's Lover, go to the county hoosegow for a year, and/or a $500 fine.

POOPLA appears to be aimed at public libraries only, though if your school and town are like mine, the public library is an important student resource.

Some of the criteria for POOPLA censorship is pretty straightforward, as in "nudity, sexuality, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse." But some of it is pretty vague and problematic, targeting works lacking "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." Can't wait to hear about a POOPLA board hearing about the political value of a work.

Unsurprisingly, some folks in the librarian world are not big POOPLA fans.

If you've been following Freaking Out Over Library Activities news, you may have guessed why this is coming up now, but bill sponsor Ben Baker laid it out in an interview-- it's those damn drag queen story time events. Also, liberals are hypocrites. And he gets death threats from all over, which is unquestionably a major overreaction to the bill and generally a bad way to conduct yourself as a human being.

Baker says that most of criticism comes from people who haven't read the bill. I've read the bill (you can, too-- it's not long), and I still think it's a terrible idea. Here's hoping the Missouri legislature has enough sense not to make a law out of it.


  1. School libraries have morphed into computer gaming centers while the old card catalog is a relic of days gone by. Seeing a student browsing the shelves of our school library or checking out a book has become a pretty rare sight. "Research" is typically an in-class Google search on one-to-one Chromebooks. The best young adult "libraries" in my school are those customized specifically to the reading interests of our students by experienced and dedicated ELA teachers. Hopefully the elementary teachers still see a need for school librarians.

  2. I predicted this would happen. Imagine what it will become if dumpster-fire-Donnie is re-elected and he will still have the nuclear codes of course.