By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
The Idaho Board of Library Commissioners met virtually Thursday to approve some funding distribution for local libraries and prepare for the upcoming legislative session.
The only action item Thursday was the approval of a $16,000 donation for the 2023 summer reading program. The donation, from the Idaho Scottish Rite Foundation, will be used to purchase 7,500 books to be distributed to public libraries for summer reading initiatives.
The Idaho Commission for Libraries took a bruising earlier this year when the House of Representatives narrowly passed HB 666, which could have criminally punished librarians for distributing what the Legislature deemed obscene materials to minors. That bill passed the House, though the Senate never took it up, effectively killing it.
Additionally, lawmakers shot down four drafts of the Idaho Commission for Libraries budget last legislative session over accusations that librarians were distributing obscene materials to children. Ultimately, the legislature approved a fifth draft after legislators cut about $3.8 million from its budget.
Commission for Libraries State Librarian Stephanie Bailey-White told the board Thursday that she’s heard lawmakers may introduce another version of HB 666 in the 2023 session. She’s working to provide basic information to legislators on what the Commission for Libraries does and its role in the state.
Local libraries and school libraries elect trustees who are responsible for approving the collection in the library. If any resident wants to challenge a book in a local library, that issue is handled by local trustees and directors, not the Commission for Libraries.
Board member Michael Strickland said he’s heard a lot of confusion about what the Board does.
“It’s kind of sad that a contrived problem has been created,” Strickland said in the meeting. “(It’s) a battle and a war that doesn’t exist.”
The Meridian Library District faced pushback in November when it declined to restrict books in its collection, despite more than 200 people attending the meeting. The November meeting came after lengthy public testimony in August, much of it in support of the library. In Bonners Ferry, armed activists demanded that the library ban books they believed were inappropriate. Former Boundary County Library Director Kimber Glidden resigned, citing ongoing harassment.
Board member Dave Mecham expressed concern about libraries’ ability to review collections if added burdens are put on the local librarians, comparing it to some of Utah’s new legislation.
Utah’s legislation required schools to review materials in school libraries to ensure it aligns with school curriculum and review or restrict materials that could be considered sensitive.
“There’s just not enough time in the day to do all the things they are prescribing,” Mecham said.
Mecham also expressed concern about lawmakers passing another version of HB 666 in the 2023 legislative session.
“My concern is that that kind of legislation will end school libraries,” Mecham said.
The next meeting for the Idaho Board of Library Commissioners is set for February. The Idaho Legislature returns in January.