Missouri House GOP Votes to Strip Funding from All Public Libraries Statewide

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Missouri House Republicans are angry that the ACLU filed suit against the Missouri Association of School Librarians (Moscow Library Association) Plaintiffs seek to declare unconstitutional a bill that banned 300 books from school libraries. Republicans decimated the entire state’s public library system.

Many of the 300 books that were ripped from school libraries’ shelves contained LGBTQ or racial justice themes. The Republicans did not like the idea that they would be sued and denied any public funding for librarians and public libraries.

Rep. Cody Smith claimed that the state shouldn’t “subsidize” the lawsuit using public funds. The Missouri Library Association stated that they were not providing any funding for the lawsuit and that the ACLU is supporting them pro bono.

The group posted on Twitter that library funding was guaranteed by the MO constitution. This tactic, which was intended to force MLA into submission is actually detrimental to public libraries that rely on these funds, particularly the smaller and more rural ones.

The ACLU is seeking to declare unconstitutional the law it challenged. It was designed to protect victims of sexual assault. A new amendment was made that prohibits teachers from “providing explicit sexual material to students”.

The HuffPost:

Although the amount of state funding that each library receives varies, it is not impossible for libraries to be exempt from drastic cuts or defunding.

Earnhart stated that $26,000 would have been enough to fund my library, which amounts to 20% of our purchasing budget. “We would either need to find extra funds elsewhere or reduce the number of items that we can purchase.”

Earnhart stated that her library is fortunate to have other funding sources. If the state cuts its funding, it will not have to close its doors. Rural libraries wouldn’t have the same luck.

It is possible to protect children without closing hundreds of libraries. It’s not clear that all 300 books in the collection violate the “sexually explicit” law. This is the problem with anyone, right or wrong, trying to decide what is acceptable. How many books are “sexually explicit?” How many books should be kept secret from the public?

PEN America:

The law’s provisions that exclude materials of artistic and anthropological significance from the collection are being clearly ignored. Students are prohibited from looking at works by Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo. They also cannot check out graphic novels that adapt classics such as Shakespeare and Mark Twain. Districts have banned comics on Batman, X-Men, and Watchmen; The Complete Guide to Drawing & Painting by Reader’s Digest; Women; a book of photographs by Annie Leibovitz; and The Children’s Bible.

The graphic novels of Shakespeare are graphic novel adaptations. I am sure that Shakespeare would be furious at the literary butchers who have made such a mess of his work. Great care should be taken when banning books from public consumption, such as those found in a public library. Missouri seems to lack this care.

It is foolish to blame contemporary white people for the sins of slavery. Children should not be exposed to such stupidity. However, it is important to teach children lessons about how to present a historically accurate image of America in the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the treatment of blacks since emancipation by white people. Teaching older children to appreciate the fact that others see the world differently, and that they love and feel differently, are also important lessons.

They can also be taught through books, carefully selected, and not thrown in the garbage.