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Secretary of State proposes rule to restrict ‘obscene’ books at Missouri libraries


Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is proposing a new rule that would require libraries to distinguish which books are age-appropriate for children.

This proposed rule impacts any library receiving state funding through the Secretary of State's Office, which would be most libraries including the local Missouri River Regional Library and Boone County Public Libraries. Under the rule, they cannot buy any books deemed "inappropriate" with state money.

The rule will be added to the Missouri register on Nov. 15. There will then be a 30-day public comment period before it is finalized.

Ashcroft's new proposed rule, libraries must release a written policy on how they determine what is appropriate for different age groups, and how they're keeping inappropriate books out of children's hands. They must also allow parents to challenge books.

"If that is not age-appropriate material for say a minor, that should not be in a part of the library that the minor is going to have access to," Ashcroft said.

The Missouri Library Association also did not respond to ABC 17's inquiries right away, but recently released a statement for Banned Books Week about a new Missouri law that bans "sexually explicit" books from school libraries.

"Libraries and schools are under constant scrutiny, and are consistently underfunded in our state," the statement said. "We stand against oppressive legislative efforts to undermine the public good, and we stand with our readers."

A 2022 report from the American Library Association showed there have been attempts to ban more than 1,600 books across the country this year. Since the association has been tracking, that is the most in a single year.

"In this rule, we don't technically ban any books from being in the library, we do ban the use of the funds that we give to libraries for books that just appeal to the prurient interest of children," Ashcroft said.

Ashcroft's campaign has announced he is running for a "statewide office" in 2024, the year of Missouri's next gubernatorial race.

Some public libraries, like the Missouri River Regional Library, already separate books by age level.

Parents in and around the library held differing opinions on the proposed rule. Some think it's a good idea, while others say it ventures into a gray area.

One parent was concerned that it could allow people to ban anything, such as religious texts.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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