By Mar’Che Boggess
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Rep. Ben Baker (R-Neosho) has proposed HR 2044, a bill that intends to bar libraries from keeping books with “age-inappropriate” material in stock. Under the bill, panels of elected parents would evaluate whether a book is appropriate for children or not.
Once the panel discusses the book, public hearings would be held for libraries about potentially inappropriate content. Libraries failure to comply with stipulations may result in fines or imprisonment of library directors for up to a year.
Baker recently voiced his reasoning to KOAM News, saying “I want to be able to take my kids to a library and make sure they’re in a safe environment and that they’re not gonna be exposed to something that is objectionable material.”
A few books that have come under fire by parents due to objectionable material include Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Sheman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.
The Missouri Library Association opposes Baker’s bill because it “will always stand against censorship and for the freedom to read.” James Tager, PEN America’s deputy director of free expression and research echoed the sentiments of the association saying “The fact that a librarian could actually be imprisoned for following his or her conscience and refusing to block minors from access to a book, that tells you all you need to know about the suitability of this act within a democratic society.”
Tager went on to say that Baker’s proposed bill is a “shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning in the state of Missouri.”