BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Libraries across the state are developing new policies on how to keep sexually explicit materials away from kids after a new law went into effect.
Now that Act 436 is law, libraries across the state are developing their policies of what books should be available for teens and children. They’re also fine tuning their policy of how patrons can bring up their concerns about specific books.
“We have 1.8 million items across our 14 locations, and a lot of these books have been here for quite some time,” said EBR Deputy Library Director Kristen Edson. “They’re not all brand new that people are having issues with. So it is possible that something that was determined appropriate 10 years ago is no longer considered appropriate.”
For larger systems like East Baton Rouge Parish Libraries, they already had a tiered card system for kids, tweens and teens, which make up nearly 40% of their cardholders.
Assistant EBR Library Director Mary Stein said they will work to recode all 70,000 student ecards, so kids have the same restrictions on digital materials. They plan to order new library cards with new barcode ranges next month. Parents who don’t want their children to access the digital library can choose a new kind of card for their children.
“A tween card would not be able to just be given access to adult material. The way that our cardholder policy is currently written, a teenager or tween is not eligible for an adult library card,” Edson said.
For parents who are okay with their teens having an adult card, EBR is looking for answers on how to implement that.
The Louisiana State Library is guiding library boards on how to set up their own policies and book challenge processes. In EBR, a book brought up by a patron goes through a rigorous check by librarians on what ages should have access. They look at trustworthy review sites and read the materials to determine if it is in an age-appropriate tier.
“If they are not satisfied, the new law also makes it so that the Library Board of Control would review the materials as well,” Edson said.
A lot of misinformation was being discussed during the legislative session when the bill was being heard. Some claimed the bill would make libraries pull books from the shelves or relocate them within the library. This is not the case, it just makes the card system so kids cannot check out adult materials.
Libraries have until January to revise their policies and until June 2024 to implement them. Otherwise, they risk financial repercussions from the State Bond Commission
The East Baton Rouge Parish Library said they have some questions about the specifics of this law that they’re hoping the legislature can help answer as they roll out these new policies.