Library Materials Policing Bill Held by House Education Committee

House Education Committee members heard two bills dealing with libraries and the distribution of age appropriate materials on Wednesday.

House Bill 139, co-sponsored by Rep. Jaron Crane (R-Nampa), Sen. Cindy Carlson (R-Riggins) and the extremist Idaho Advocacy Center, would have cleared the way for patrons to sue libraries for providing materials they deem “harmful to minors.” Libraries that violate the ban, which focused heavily on material sexual in nature, could face a $10,000 fine. It was held in committee on a 9-8 vote. While not technically dead, the bill is unlikely to resurface again this legislative session.

Ultimately, committee members who voted to hold the bill cited many reasons, including:

  • Most libraries have existing processes for challenging materials
  • Communities should not be held to standards and preferences of any single individual in library material selection
  • Most libraries and library districts have locally-elected governing bodies that reflect community standards for materials
  • Outlined penalties and likely liability insurance costs it would trigger could be financially crippling or even fatal to many small libraries or library districts

The committee also heard testimony but did not vote on a more moderate library materials policing bill, House Bill 227. It requires libraries to implement policies for selecting and removing materials, and for parents to question materials or restrict their child’s access. This bill does not codify any civil or criminal penalties. It’s unclear if the committee will take this legislation up again this year.

House Bill 139 elicited passionate testimony from those for and against the legislation, including a number of IEA members.

“The right book at the right time for the right kid can literally save a life,” said IEA member Gregory Taylor, the teacher librarian at Hillside Junior High School in Boise and the 2022 Idaho School Librarian of the Year. “Over the years, I’ve received notes and emails, been stopped in the grocery store, once even pulled into a corner at a rock concert, so a former student or parent could thank me for the books I provided or recommended. Often, those are the very books that this bill would seek to remove.”

The bill text went into broad and vivid detail listing the types of sexual representations that libraries could be held accountable for if minors were to obtain materials containing them from their collections.

Material “that depicts nudity, sexual conduct, or sado-masochistic abuse and that is harmful to minors,” could elicit a lawsuit, according one section. Another section included the catch-all “any other material harmful to minors.”

“The goal of this legislation was to flood libraries with frivolous, culture-war lawsuits and discourage insurance companies from providing liability insurance to libraries – an existential threat to one of our most beloved public institutions,” said Chris Parri, Idaho Education Association’s political director. “The extreme groups behind this legislation are the same ones fanning the flames of book bans across the state.”

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