It’s been a long journey for the library bill.

During the 2022 legislative session, Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt sponsored the unfortunately-numbered House Bill 666, which would have removed the loophole allowing schools and libraries to disseminate material harmful to minors. Despite passing the house, Senate State Affairs Committee Chairwoman Patti Anne Lodge left it in the drawer and Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Winder called it “crazy”.

Last year, Rep. Jaron Crane introduced House Bill 139, but it was rejected by the House Education Committee. Leaked emails revealed that Chairwoman Julie Yamamoto had promised librarians that there was no way H139 would ever get past her committee.

Rep. Crane was undeterred. He resubmitted the bill as H314 and worked with House leadership to send it through the State Affairs Committee, a much friendlier environment. H314 passed the House and the Senate but was vetoed by Governor Brad Little, who wrote that he was worried about a “bounty” being placed on librarians. An attempt to override the veto failed by one vote.

Rep. Crane is back yet again with H384. He introduced the bill Monday morning in House State Affairs and said that the latest version fixed the issues brought up by the governor last year. He also spoken to Gov. Little about the issues with H314 and had fixed them in the latest iteration. After about 90 minutes of testimony, H384 passed House State Affairs on a party line vote and will be debated on the House floor as early as Thursday.

In an interview with Idaho Signal shortly after the hearing, Crane said that both Speaker Mike Moyle and Senate Pro Tem Winder were on board, which suggests it has a good chance of passing both chambers.

I took the opportunity to testify on the bill as well. I believe that H384, despite being greatly compromised since H666 and H314, lays a solid foundation for keeping obviously pornographic materials away from children while leaving discretion in the more marginal cases to local boards.

KTVB Channel 7 was covering the hearing, and afterwards they asked me to comment on it. I indulged them today. Ten minutes of recording turned into one blink-and-you-miss-it sound bite at around 4:50, but that’s about what I expected.

Today was “IEA Day at the Capitol” so the hearing room was packed with members of the teacher’s union. I started the morning in the overflow room, where people were more apt to react to what was said in the hearing with groans, applause, or commentary.

Most of the arguments against the bill this morning had little to do with the bill itself. Several teachers and librarians argued based on their credentials — a few spent nearly half their time listing off their degrees and experience. Others said the government has no right to say what should or should not be on library shelves, seemingly forgetting that school and public libraries are parts of government as well.

Another line of argument against the bill was that parents, not the state, should decide what their children read. This is all well and good, and even if this bill passes there will be nothing stopping parents from checking out Gender Queer or Sex is a Funny Word for their teens. (I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s their choice.) However, this is the only time you’ll hear teacher’s union representatives arguing for more parental control. In other circumstances, they’re the ones arguing for less control. See exhibits A, B, and C, just for starters.

The most reasonable testimony against the bill came from Robert Wright, director of the Idaho Falls Public Library. He explained that in Idaho Falls, parents can sign their children up for a restricted library card, which only checks out books from the children’s section, or an unrestricted card, which can check out adult books as well. Not even the unrestricted card can check out adult graphic novels or movies, however.

Wright worried that H384 would require renovating the library or posting guards to keep children out of the adult section. While I think that’s a bit of hyperbole, I heard that he was able to talk to Rep. Crane about possibly making some minor wording changes to assuage that fear.

The truth is that this is not a heavy handed bill. It has been significantly watered down since 2022 and H666, yet the leftist teachers and librarians have made it clear they don’t want any oversight over how they curate their shelves. That’s just the thing, though. There is no library on earth large enough to contain every work ever created, so librarians naturally curate their collections. They make choices about what to put on their shelves, what to leave out, and most importantly, in which sections items belong. This bill is not about censorship, but curation. It essentially says that a few dozen books with extremely graphic and pornographic narratives and pictures should not be in the children’s or teen’s sections of the library. Period.

Nevertheless, the teacher’s union and the Idaho Library Association are gearing up to fight this bill. Perhaps they know that this one has a much better chance of passing the governor’s desk and so they have chosen to die on this hill.

I’ve written before about how the library has become a cultural battlefield. Radical leftists want to expose children to graphic and obscene materials. Conservatives don’t want any of that stuff in schools and libraries. The great mass of people in the middle don’t know what to think, and can be swayed by emotional and hyperbolic arguments about fighting back against evil book burners who hate reading.

I love reading. I love libraries. I think the public library is one of the great innovations of Western Civilization. I have nine tall bookshelves in my own house and it’s still not enough for all of the books my family owns. I simply hold the position — as radical as it sounds — that there is no reason for children to have access to pornography.

As a society, we have decided that there are some things adults can have but children cannot. A grocery store cannot sell beer to a 17-year-old. A movie theater cannot allow a 12-year-old to see a rated R movie without an adult. There is no reason that schools and libraries should be allowed to give children obviously inappropriate materials.

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