Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Libraries limit access as GOP bill takes effect

The most peaceful car ride I take with my kids is on the way home from the library. They can’t wait to read their selections and become totally immersed. Toddler storytime helped them develop a love of reading. Now that they are a tween and teen, the library helps them unplug from those pesky devices and keep reading. Sady, libraries across Idaho are about to become less accessible to our kids because of extreme legislation passed by the Republican supermajority.

The law is House Bill 710 is an overreaching book bounty bill. Beginning July 1, it allows anyone—even out-of-state residents—to challenge books in our public libraries, school libraries, and private school libraries. The library must pay a mandatory $250 fine, and complainants can be awarded uncapped damages. Under this vague law, something as simple as same-sex hand-holding in a young adult novel could be ruled obscene in a lawsuit.

The consequences range from sad to absurd. The one-room Donnelly Public Library decided it could no longer allow anyone under 18 to visit unless accompanied by a parent due to the risks posed by this law. Private Christian schools will have to consider whether they can even have the Bible available in their libraries since it has sexually explicit passages.

Libraries already have locally governed complaint policies, which usually require that the complainant be a resident. The bill circumvents this local decision-making and emboldens the book-banning activists — a vocal few who want to make book selection decisions for everyone else. Now, libraries are considering costly measures, like checking IDs and monitoring movement within the library, to protect themselves from these lawsuits.

When the GOP supermajority passes laws like this that take away our freedom to make decisions for ourselves and our families, I take comfort in how everyday Idahoans respond.

The 2024 Idaho Public Policy Survey found that over 69% of Idahoans trust public libraries and librarians to decide which books are on the shelves.

Last year, when far-right activists attempted to dissolve the Meridian Library District completely, residents came out in droves to protect their library and prevailed.

Even more inspiring is Idaho high school graduate Annabelle Jenkins. She went viral after she tried to hand the West Ada School District superintendent a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale as she walked across the stage in her cap and gown. The book had been censored and removed from district libraries.

Idahoans know the value of our libraries and oppose these attacks. I’m proud that every Democrat in the Idaho House and Senate voted against this harmful legislation. Let’s stand together this November and elect leaders who will protect these vital community institutions.

Rep. Lauren Necochea

Rep. Lauren Necochea

Representative Lauren Necochea is the House Assistant Democratic Leader, representing District 19. She is also chair of the Idaho Democratic Party.

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