Library materials policy talks continue
Trustees Tim Plass, right, and Tom Hanley raise their hands to speak at a meeting of the Community Library Network's board Thursday evening. From left: Rachelle Ottosen, Hanley, Trustee Vanessa Robinson and Plass.
Staff Writer | November 17, 2023 1:08 AM
POST FALLS — Discussion about a draft materials selection policy for the Community Library Network continued Thursday, and trustees will continue discussing it.
The proposed policy addresses the library network’s selection and acquisition of books and materials with a heavy focus on books and other library items that could be harmful to minors.
The library network’s attorney D. Colton Boyles shared some concerns with the board that he has about the proposed policy.
Boyles said the board needs to distinguish specific ages when referring to minors when deciding which materials they should have access to.
“If we just limit to all minors what’s explicit, there could be material available to younger children that’s inappropriate,” he said. “Vice versa, if we limit all minors to the standard of what’s inappropriate to very young children, then there’s material that’s not legally inappropriate for the older age groups — 13, 14, 15 and up.”
Another concern he shared with the board was the potential impact of this new policy on other policies such as those regarding: children in the library; computer use; internet use safety; library cards for minors; social media and networking sites; and reconsideration of materials.
“That provides a broad overlay of the pond,” Boyles said. “When we’re changing the Materials Selection Policy, we’re throwing a pebble in the pond, right?”
Boyles said that while he thinks the overall proposed policy is a good start, it is very different from the existing policy.
“So I wouldn’t recommend approving it as it is right now because we have some gaps,” Boyles said.
One more dramatic change the board is considering making to the policy is changing some language to allow the library network to evaluate books “in part” rather than in their entirety.
Boyles said this is a concern because the Supreme Court considers the context of the work important and it could lead to too much discretion on behalf of a government agent such as the library director or a staff member to target specific parts of a work without considering the context.
The Materials Selection Policy was a main focus during the more than three-and-a-half-hour meeting, which was still not long enough to cover all the items on the agenda even with an extension.
Trustee Vanessa Robison asked Boyles to compare the current Materials Selection Policy, adopted Nov. 4, 2022, with the policy draft that is being proposed. She said the current policy is much more clear than the proposed draft.
“Putting them side by side, what is the difference?” she asked, then asked if the new policy would change the ability for a book to come into the library.
“I think it could, but I don’t know if it practically would,” Boyles said. “It leaves a lot of discretion to the director to make those age-appropriate determinations still.”
He said he recommends the board set a policy the direcommunitylibrary.netctor can apply that would cover state law and each minor age group.
“Do you see a big problem with the existing one?” Robinson asked.
Boyles said the existing policy is adequate, but could always be improved. He said with legislative changes on the horizon, the board should be mindful in its policymaking to be protective of staff. He said the board doesn’t want staff members being responsible for making decisions that could criminally implicate them.
In April, the Idaho House of Representatives nearly overrode Gov. Brad Little’s veto of House Bill 314, which, if passed, would have criminalized school and library staff — teachers and librarians — who made available materials “harmful to minors” and rewarded those successful in pursuing legal action with $2,500. A variation of that bill could emerge during the next legislative session, which begins in January.
The Community Library Network will tentatively hold a special meeting from 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 30 to continue discussion on the Materials Selection Policy as well as the new Materials Withdrawal and Reconsideration Policy.
Visit communitylibrary.net for full board materials.