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Library card restrictions for minors coming

LPL gears up to comply with new Louisiana law
Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Starting June 1, Lincoln Parish Library patrons under the age of 18 will not be able to check out any digital material, or any physical material above their age section, unless their parent signs off on removing those restrictions.

The library is overhauling its card policy in order to get in compliance with a new state law passed in 2023 aimed at limiting minors’ access to material deemed “sexually explicit” within public libraries.

The new policy splits library cards into different types, including Patron, Teens and Children. Kids age birth to 12 will have a Children card that can only check out material from the children’s sections. Teens age 13-17 will be able to check out material from the children’s or teen’s sections with their card, but not the adult sections.

Neither Teens nor Childrens cards will be able to access any digital material of any kind, such as ebooks and audio books.

With a signature, parents or guardians can have their child’s card changed to Teen Plus or Children Plus, which removes all restrictions and gives the minor the same access as an adult patron. Parents can also choose to give a Children card access to the teen section only.

“If a parent decides that they want to leave their (child’s) card the way it’s been since Lincoln Parish has been in business, then they can sign to get their child a Child Plus, which turns it right back into what it was before,” library Director Jeremy Bolom said.

There aren’t actually any materials in the Lincoln Parish Library that have been deemed “sexually explicit” under the new law, Louisiana Revised Statute 25:225.

To receive that label, a work would have to be challenged by a patron and undergo review by the library’s board to see if it fits the law’s definition of explicit.

The library included that process in a policy update in November, and so far no materials have been challenged.

But rather than try to adopt an ever-changing system that would block minors from only those challenged works, Bolom said the library is opting to simply limit access by section and ensure that any materials that are ever deemed explicit are housed in an adult section, if they weren’t already.

But the law does require libraries to block minors from all digital materials unless they receive parent permission to have access to them.

A public notice of these changes that the library has prepared says the library will inform all parents/ guardians of card-holding minors about these changes so that they have the opportunity to opt their children out of these restrictions.

The law went through the Legislature last year in the wake of then- Attorney General and governor candidate Jeff Landry’s “Protecting Innocence Report,” which called for more oversight of library content and listed examples of works Landry’s office found to be unsuitable for children, including several with LGBTQ themes and characters.

Critics called the move was a veiled attempt to remove LGBTQ works from public libraries and said the legislation was a solution in search of a problem, while proponents said it was needed to help parents maintain control over the level of sexual content their children are exposed to.

Even as the law becomes effective this summer and libraries across the state gear up to comply, more library-focused bills are in the works in the current legislative session, including one that would remove public libraries’ longstanding immunity to criminal obscenity charges.

As it did last year, the library’s Board of Control has adopted a resolution opposing this legislation.

“What they’re doing is abusing the criminal law and criminal process to achieve what they want, which is to get rid of certain books,” board member and former legislator Bill Jones said.

The board is urging patrons and residents to contact their state lawmakers about House Bills 414 and 545.