Library Board of Trustees' Message to the Secretary of State

 

November 16, 2022

The Honorable John R. Ashcroft
Office of the Missouri Secretary of State
P.O. Box 1767
Jefferson City, MO  65102


Dear Secretary Ashcroft,          

Subject: Proposed Administrative Rule 15 CSR 30-200.015 Library Certification Requirement for the Protection of Minors

On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the St. Charles City-County Public Library, we steadfastly oppose rule 15 CSR 30-200.015 Library Certification Requirement for the Protection of Minors for these reasons:

  • It undermines the core library tenet of free and equal access for all. 
  • The St. Charles City-County Library already has policies in place with appropriate age categories at each of our locations. 
  • It diminishes local control over public libraries by their boards of trustees as set forth in Missouri statute.
  • It is a politicized action to address a purported problem that is not widespread in day-to-day public library operations.
  • It creates a financial burden.


Public libraries were founded on the notion that all citizens should have free and equal access to materials regardless of their origin, age, background, or views. No citizen should be able to decide for another what is appropriate for them. In the case of children, that decision should rest solely with their parents or guardians who must be responsible for that oversight. Libraries cannot and should not act in loco parentis. 


Like all public libraries, we have masters-degreed staff who specialize in selecting materials for our community. They typically follow the mainstream age recommendations. We have a policy and procedure in place for any citizen to request a review of materials.


As set forth in Missouri statute, those policies are the responsibility of the local library board. Library boards are non-partisan and, along with library staff, most attuned to understanding the needs of their local communities. Any attempt to undermine this statutorily-defined local control and politicize public library policies represents a dangerous overreach that threatens their ability to be inclusive, provide access to all, and respect diverse perspectives across all areas of the collection. 


As one of the largest libraries in the state, our collection includes over 661,000 items.  Last year nearly 1.1 million people came through our doors and checked out over 5.7 million items.  Despite this level of use, only six requests for review were filed by three citizens during that time.  This is a far cry from the picture being painted in the media and by politicians and in no way justifies this overreaching action.


The proposed rule states that it will not cost more than five hundred dollars ($500) in the aggregate. Though not even in place, the financial burden on our library alone has already far exceeded that amount due to time invested in a variety of areas including: conferencing with other library directors across the state, researching current policies and any changes that would need to occur, legal fees for council to review related policies, and communicating the proposed rule with staff, our Board of Trustees, and our community.


The power public libraries have to enhance and transform a community is tangible.  While it is certain the values represented in every item will not reflect those of every citizen, it is important that the public library have materials that represent many viewpoints. The Library is committed to being inclusive, providing access to all, and respecting diverse perspectives across all areas of the collection. This step by the Secretary of State threatens to erode that core value.

 

Sincerely,

Stacia Alvarez, President
St. Charles City-County Library District
Board of Trustees

 

 

A message to our customers

 

Missouri’s Secretary of State is proposing a new administrative rule that would require libraries to “institute measures to protect minors from non-age-appropriate materials” in order to receive state funding. Parents or guardians would have the right to challenge a library’s age-appropriate designation for any material. A 30-day window for public input opens November 15; we urge our community and state to review the measure. Read our statement and learn how you can respond.

 

The St. Charles City-County Library, like all public libraries, was founded on the notion that all citizens should have free and equal access to materials regardless of their origin, age, background, or views. No citizen should be able to decide for another what is appropriate for them. In the case of children, we too believe that decision should rest solely with their parents or guardians. We also believe that parents or guardians are the ones who must be responsible for that oversight, not the Library.

 

The proposed ruling is problematic for these reasons:

  • It undermines the core library tenet of free and equal access for all and there are already collection policies in place with appropriate age categories at each of our locations. 

  • It is a politicized action to address a purported problem that is not widespread in day-to-day public library operations and diminishes local control by library boards.

  • It creates a financial burden.

 

As one of the largest libraries in the state, our collection includes over 661,000 items.  Last year nearly 1.1 million people came through our doors and checked out over 5.7 million items.  Despite this level of use, only six requests for review were filed by three citizens during that time. 

 

The power public libraries have to enhance and transform a community is tangible.  While it is certain the values represented in every item will not reflect those of every citizen, it is important that the public library have materials that represent many viewpoints. The Library is committed to being inclusive, providing access to all, and respecting diverse perspectives across all areas of the collection. This step by the Secretary of State threatens to erode that core value.


You can share your thoughts and feedback about the Secretary of State’s proposed rule beginning on November 15 by mailing or emailing the Office of the Missouri Secretary of State. To be considered, all comments to the proposed rule must be received between November 15 and December 15 and must include “15 CSR 30-200.015” in the subject line.

Mailing Address:
Office of the Missouri Secretary of State
PO Box 1767, Jefferson City, MO 65102

Email Address:
comments@sos.mo.gov
Subject line: 15 CSR 30-200.015

 

Additional Information

 

Based on your questions to the proposed ruling by the Secretary of State post on November 15 we can offer further detail. Your passion, your support and your feedback are appreciated. In addition to infringing on free and equal access to materials, the ruling, as written, has several areas that are vague and lack definition. 

 

As written in the proposed ruling 1C, it is impossible to implement this type of control because it means anyone could limit access to anything the library has to offer. For example, a parent could say they don’t want their child to check out animated movies and the library would have to comply with that even if the parent is not there to enforce it. We currently don’t have the technology nor the staff to appropriately tag each of the more than 661,000 items we have in our buildings and the millions of items available through our digital resources and our inter-library loans with every possible descriptor. It is important to note, most library checkouts come without any staff intervention. We fully support a parent providing direction to their child. That responsibility lies with the parent and not the library.
 


As written, 1D is vague by lack of definition of the word “displayed.” Does that mean featured or simply sitting on a shelf? Also, not all library branches have the space for separate designated areas.


 
As written in 1F, the use of “any person” implies someone from outside of our county, state, or even country could trigger a review of any item in our collection.  Anytime there is a challenge, it comes at considerable staff involvement, and allows for any partisan group to challenge items in our collection creates a considerable burden. Our local library should be controlled by our local taxpayers and board.


 
Our library will receive in excess of $400,000 in state funding this year. 


 
We hope these answers help you understand the challenges public libraries face under this proposed ruling. We respect the many differing opinions on this topic. Your feedback is welcome by emailing askus@youranswerplace.libanswers.com