Missouri bill banning certain 'inappropriate' books draws backlash

A Missouri House representative introduced a bill in January that would allow the banning of specific books from the state's libraries and includes threats of misdemeanor charges for failure to comply. 

Former minister and Missouri Rep. Ben Baker (R) proposed the "Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act," which will remove "age-inappropriate sexual material" from the state's libraries, according to an ABC report.

The material deemed in appropriate will be removed by a panel of workers outside the library. 

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Institutions failing to comply with the bill's ban will lose funding, and any library employees providing content to users deemed inappropriate by the panel would succumb to misdemeanor charges liable for up to a $500 fine or a maximum jail sentence of a year, according to the bill.

The bill has received pushback from the public, specifically, librarians. 

Cynthia Dudenhoffer, president of the Missouri Library Association, took offense to the bill that was introduced, saying that librarians take the content that they buy for their members into careful consideration. 

"Librarians take that stuff very seriously," Dudenhoffer said to ABC. "It's not like we buy things willy-nilly." 

Currently, the state's library systems, accounting for a total of 365 branches, have rules in place to determine what materials are allowed for their younger members.

Originally, the Springfield News-Leader reports, the bill was written by Baker in response to "drag queen story hours" that took place in individual libraries across the state.

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"I wanted to send a strong message that we need to protect our kids, and we need to do something about this, but that's all negotiable," Baker said, according to the news source.

Dudenhoffer rebuked this reasoning, saying that Baker did not mention drag queen story hours in the bill. In addition, when these events and others take place, the story times do not include sexually explicit or "inappropriate" content.

Furthermore, Dudenhoffer noted that she thought the bill was aimed at keeping children away from content about same-sex relationships. 

"This is one tactic that is being taken to try to put forward this idea that children should not have access to picture books about a prince and knight falling in love," ABC News reported.

The National Coalition Against Censorship called for the Missouri Legislature to reject the bill formally titled "Missouri House Bill 2044." The statement provided examples of community member's past attempts at banning classic novels such as Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and a few more notable works.

The state's branches also take feedback from readers about content they find questionable, and library boards can remove a book or put it in a different section based on cardholders' suggestions, according to the ABC report.

Dudenhoffer said that the state's libraries do go out of their way to make sure books and other contents are placed in the correct sections.

"We work on it person by person, case by case," she said.