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HB666 prompt debate at library meeting

Staff Writer | March 24, 2022 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — Boundary County Library Director Kimber Glidden said she is concerned there may be a censorship campaign in the county in favor of House Bill 666.

The bill, which would remove library and other institutions exemptions from "disseminating material harmful to minors,” could put public servants, like librarians, in legal trouble for defending patrons’ First Amendment rights.

At the March 17 Boundary County Library board meeting, resident Adrienne Norris spoke in favor of HB 666 during public comment.

“I wish that the library would quit hiding behind an exemption law and start taking action to ensure a safe place,” Norris said. “If the library would take some minor steps in keeping these materials out of young people's hands, then the state of Idaho wouldn't have to make laws to remove your exemption.”

“As a community, we should come together and try to figure out how everyone feels safe, especially when we're all paying taxes. And we all want to enjoy this public space,” she said.

Glidden said this is a modern day witch hunt.

The big issue is that there is push from residents to prevent children from checking out materials on their own. And further, there is a push from some residents to prevent children from having full access to all materials in the library and they want library officials to police it.

Glidden said that if a pre-teen came to check out “The Kite Runner,” which has dark themes including rape, people in support of HB 666 would expect librarians to tell the children they can’t check out that book.

“That is 100% against the Constitution. It says children and young adults unquestionably possess First Amendment rights, including the right to receive information through the library, in print, sound, images, data, social media, online applications, games, technologies, programming, and other formats,” Glidden said, quoting the American Library Association.

ALA officials added that constitutionally protected speech cannot be suppressed solely to protect children or young adults from ideas or images that others or a legislative body believes to be unsuitable for them.

Norris also questioned what library staff would do if a 9-year-old tried to rent a R-rated movie. Glidden said due to the child’s First Amendment rights, she can not deny the child.

“It is not my job, to say to that kid you can’t check this movie out,” Glidden said. “So if you are a parent and you don’t want a kid to have that access, then please remove their name from the account [...] and then we would not check out any materials to them.”

In response to Norris and others who have wanted to add notes to their account on what their child can and can’t check out, Glidden said the library will not be doing that.

“We cannot put that on librarians to decide what is appropriate and what isn’t,” Glidden said.

It is all or nothing, she said. Either parents let their children check out books at the library or they do not.

The library cannot enforce an age limit, nor can they choose who can and can’t access material Both would be discriminatory, Glidden said.

If parents do not want their children to check out materials without their consent they can remove the child’s name from the library card, Glidden said. This would require that a parent is with the child when materials are checked out.

For the librarian to choose what can be read is irresponsible, Glidden said. Books that she may consider uninteresting may be the one thing at the end of the day that someone finds comfort in.

“I may not enjoy it, but I would never take away that thing that someone loves and is looking forward to. If that is what they need, that's valid,” Glidden said.

On March 7, HB 666 was approved in the House 51-14. Five representatives were absent. Every North Idaho legislator voted in favor of the bill, except Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d'Alene, who was among those absent.

The bill's first reading in the Senate was March 8, then it was referred to the State Affairs Committee. No action has occurred since then.

Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder has told reports that the bill will not be heard in the Senate.

“I do not see the chamber picking this one up. I do not see it getting a hearing in committee. I think it’s very appropriately numbered, 666,” Winder said.

The bill would amend Idaho Code Section 18-1517 to remove a provision regarding an affirmative defense and to make technical corrections. It declares an emergency that, if passed in Senate and signed by the governor, goes into effect July 1.

HB 666 strikes language that provides protection for "a bona fide school, college, university, museum or public library" or employees of such entities so legal action may be pursued against them for "disseminating material harmful to minors." That material includes descriptions or representations of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse.

Norris said parents across the nation are trying to ban certain library materials which contain words, photos and videos of sex and racism. She was concerned with children having access to these materials.

“It is in my opinion that the library wants young readers to come and explore. The library is supposed to be fun. As a parent, we love seeing our children walking around and finding that perfect book or movie,” Norris said. “But some parents may not feel comfortable allowing thier children to wander around.”

Norris has said that she will continue her campaign in support of HB 666.