The need to protect children from pornography and other sexualized content in Idaho’s libraries should be easily agreed upon. However, we currently have two different bills for our legislature to choose from. First, we were presented with a bill from Representative Jaron Crane that has teeth and imposes a civil penalty upon the libraries if they do not remove harmful content from their shelves. However, some Republicans did not agree with that bill and worked feverishly behind the scenes with their lobbying and library board counterparts to come up with an empty consequences policy change that puts all blame on the parents if their children come home with a book depicting crude sexual acts, incest, or pornographic pictures.

Let’s dive into the two different bills:

House Bill 139 prohibits schools and public libraries from promoting, giving, or making available to minors any material that is harmful, which includes “nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse that appeals to the prurient interest of minors as judged by the average person, depicts representations or descriptions that are patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable material for minors” that “as a whole has the dominant effect of substantially arousing sexual desires in persons under eighteen (18) years of age.” The bill also provides a civil cause of action for any minor who obtains such material or whose child obtained such material in violation of this section from a school or public library and establishes statutory damages for each instance of obtaining such material.

House Bill 227 requires school and public library boards in Idaho to adopt a selection and access policy by October 2023 that prohibits materials harmful to minors, includes specific standards for the selection of library materials, access to materials, and a process for community members to challenge certain materials in the library collection; most all of which are already in libraries throughout the state but are not adhered to. The bill also requires the library to have a library card policy that allows individuals aged 18 years or older to sign up for a library card, while minors must have their parents’ or legal guardians’ permission. The bill places the blame for children accessing harmful content on parents rather than libraries, with no recourse if the libraries fail to follow through with the requirements of the bill. This bill is the work of the House Education Chairman, Julie Yamamoto, and Representative Jack Nelsen.

Protecting children from harmful sexual content in libraries is a crucial responsibility that must be upheld by everyone. Children are vulnerable and need to be shielded from exposure to graphic and inappropriate material that can have long-lasting negative effects on their mental and emotional well-being. Libraries are public spaces that are meant to provide access to educational and informational resources, but this should never come at the expense of the safety of children. As a society, we have a duty to ensure that libraries are safe spaces for children to explore, learn and grow without being exposed to content that is harmful to their development. It is the responsibility of everyone to be vigilant and take necessary actions to prevent the circulation of such material and protect children from harm. By working together and upholding these values, we can create a safer environment for children in libraries, and in turn, promote a healthier and more positive future for our society.

Read the bills here:

Email the House Ed Committee here: