Library legislation in Idaho has come a long way following a gubernatorial veto last year and backlash from librarians last month. Following weeks of collaborative efforts, legislators on Wednesday introduced a bill that seeks to formalize procedures for libraries when patrons express concerns about specific materials being potentially harmful to minors.
In a meeting at the Senate State Affairs Committee, Sen. Geoff Schroeder, R-Mountain Home, proposed a bill that would require public and school libraries to follow a uniform policy to restrict children’s access to harmful materials.
“The purpose of this legislation is to keep pornography out of the hands of children in schools and public libraries,” he said. “We believe that this bill accomplishes that.”
Schroeder said the bill is not a compromise of earlier bills, but rather it is a combination of his previous proposed legislation, and House Bill 384 – a bill that Rep. Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, previously proposed.
The main difference between his earlier proposed legislation and the one introduced Wednesday, Schroeder said, is that under the current bill, a patron adheres to the procedures outlined in the bill first before gaining the right to sue a library.
So what would the bill require?
The bill would require that Idaho libraries establish a “Materials Review Committee” that consists of at least three people who live in the school or library district’s boundaries, and at least one member of the committee must be the parent of a minor.
According to the legislation, libraries would have to provide a relocation form for patrons who believe materials are harmful to minors, and a patron who files a relocation form would be entitled to a public hearing led by the committee.
Libraries would have to provide at least one week of public notice for the hearing through newspaper publication “of general circulation in the district’s boundaries.”
The committee would provide an explanation in writing about the decision of the material, and if a patron is not satisfied with the committee’s decision, then they can appeal the decision to the library or school board of trustees.
If a patron finds a child has access to an item previously deemed “harmful to minors” under a decision from the committee or board, then a patron could sue a library for $250 in statutory damages as well as actual damages and any other relief.