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Criticism mounts over proposed rule regarding age-appropriate material at public libraries

By Alexis Zotos

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    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (KMOV) — Thousands of comments have flooded into the Secretary of State’s office over a proposed rule regarding age-appropriate material at Missouri’s public libraries.

“Where does it stop would be my biggest concern,” said St. Louis County parent Andrew Viragh.

Viragh’s concern is over a newly proposed rule from Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office which would require all state libraries to adopt a new policy establishing age-appropriate guidelines. The rule would also allow anyone to challenge the designation. The rule also states no state funding for any materials that “appeal to the prurient interest of any minor.”

“I see this as a proposal that increases transparency that increases the ability of parents to control what their children check out of a public library and makes sure that state tax-payer dollars aren’t being used to buy pornographic material at libraries,” said Secretary Ashcroft.

Critics question who will decide what is age appropriate.

“As a parent in a same-gender household, my husband and I struggle to find representation of our family even in progressive environments like schools and libraries. But it’s just really important that our children have access to it and that other children have access to it,” said Viragh.

The rule has been criticized by the Missouri Library Association, the ACLU and library districts including St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

“We are always sensitive to any possibility of censorship and restriction of equitable access to books and other vital Library materials. We believe parents and guardians should be arbiters on what is suitable for their own children, and are wary of any third parties – including the State of Missouri – to impose those choices on others,” read a statement from St. Louis County Library.

Secretary Ashcroft says this rule is not a ban on books and leaves the decisions up to local libraries. The Secretary of State’s office is in charge of state funding for Missouri’s 160 library districts.

Thousands have already submitted comments. Public comment period is open until December 15. The Secretary of State’s office will then review the comments, and make any possible changes to the rule which would then go into effect in April 2023.

A 30-day public comment period regarding the rule will open on Tuesday, Nov. 15. If you are interested in submitting a comment you can do so by the methods below:

By email to comments@sos.mo.gov. Type the proposed rule number, 15 CSR 30-200.015, in the subject field. By mail to Missouri Secretary of State, P.O. Box 1767, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

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