It’s bad enough that Bossier Parish’s Board of Library Control operates illegally. If legislators have their way, whether legally constituted the Board will have to institute policies that prevent minors from accessing what many parents deem age-inappropriate materials, which it currently doesn’t do and should even without legislative prodding.
SB 7 by Republican state Sen. Heather Cloud would define objectionable sexual content in library materials for minors according to First Amendment jurisprudence, create a review process for patrons requesting that judgment of the board for disputed material, give parents the option of restricting that material to their children, and would penalize noncompliant boards by negating their ability to have capital outlay bonds approved. It builds upon a report issued by Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry’s office – the same document that reaffirms that appointing police jurors as a board as the Bossier Parish Police Jury has done is illegal – that notes some books with extremely explicit written and graphic depictions of sexual activity parish libraries across Louisiana make available.
The bill wouldn’t prevent libraries from making accessible such material, only that they put policies in place that give parents the ability to prevent their children from accessing these if they wish. Many parish library systems have regimes that classify at least some materials like DVDs as not borrowable for patrons under 18, so the bill merely would extend something like that to all materials but allow younger patrons access only if parents so desire. Many also already have a review process for disputed materials.
At present, Bossier libraries allow any age to check out any printed book, audiobook, or magazine, including electronic versions. The system also has policies in place to register “concern” over an item. However, it doesn’t assist parents in any way to review what their children access. In fact, in multiple places among their policies there appears wording such as “parents and guardians, not library staff, are responsible for monitoring and approving the selection of materials made by minor children.”
That might not be a problem for parents concerned about what their children can access – and especially with electronic materials now commonly available it becomes even more difficult for parents to monitor children’s consumption – except that Bossier libraries make available explicit materials to children. Of the nine titles singled out in the AG report, Bossier has six (and this doesn’t include the possibility that patrons with “Green Gold” privileges, which grants Bossierites with library cards access to materials from 11 other area parish systems, could find and access the remaining materials from participating systems).
By way of example, the (literally) graphic novel Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe – an author who describes her (or his) works as focusing on “identity, sexuality, anti-fascism, fairy tales and homesickness” – circulates at two branches and electronically. Among its cartoons and text, it depicts and describes using a sock for sexual stimulation, sexual coupling with legs akimbo, direct oral stimulation of the genitals, and “sexting” at the library(!) between apparently two males discussing use of various aids. The book recently has been one of the most widely banned among school districts.
Some parents may not care that their children consume this, but others whose tax dollars go into such acquisitions have a right to ask the library system for its assistance in helping them monitor that potential consumption, whether they intend to advise or counsel their children about the material’s content or go all the way to prohibiting them from accessing such material. To this point in time, the Board – which, whether legally, has had jurors as members since seven years ago and from the beginning of this year it has been composed entirely of jurors – has shown no interest in providing this aid.
Regardless of the bill’s fate, and particularly having just hired longtime parish library employee Felesha Sweeney as the system’s new director, the Board/Jury would do well to promulgate new policies that accomplish what the bill intends. It wouldn’t be difficult to cull through existing materials and assign those qualifying to a parental permission list for holders of non-adult library cards; in deciding what materials to purchase libraries routinely make choices dealing with content. (Interestingly, the system does not have among its materials two bestselling works that question the sexualization of children inherent to the materials included in the AG report: Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, and Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation by Bethany Mandel and Karol Markowicz released last week.)
With elections upcoming to the Police Jury, voters should question jurors running for reelection about why policy like this hasn’t been implemented, particularly in the cases of those if running again who sit (illegally) on the Board: Republicans Glenn Benton, Bob Brotherton, Julianna Parks, and Doug Rimmer and Democrat Charles Gray. And all juror candidates should address this issue with $7.71 million of taxpayer resources at stake in 2023.