Public libraries across the state will risk losing state funding if they do not segregate books with homosexual or sexually explicit material if legislation passed out of a House committee Wednesday becomes law.
Supporters of House Bill 2158, by Rep. Sally Kern, R Oklahoma City, say parents should decide whether their children can have access to these books. The bill would require the state Board of Libraries to withhold state funding if a public library does not comply with the new regulations.
Opponents say the legislation is too subjective and will cost libraries especially those in rural areas with limited staff money and time.
Librarian doesn't know where to begin Jennifer Greenstreet, a librarian at the Ada Public Library for more than 20 years, said she wouldn't know where to begin to find all the books in her library that may contain sexually explicit or homosexual passages.
Greenstreet said the bill does not clearly lay out what books must be included in the special section. She said it would take time to go through all of her books to decide which ones have questionable material.
"A million questions come up, she said. "What books will be put on that shelf? Books with a line or two, or ones with a whole section?
"As librarians, with limited money and a diverse community with diverse needs and interests, I think we try to do the best we can in making book selections to meet those needs.
Greenstreet doesn't see any way to ensure that all books containing a sexual reference are separated into a different section.
Proposal intended to protect children Kern said the bill is meant to protect children and empower parents to decide what their children can read.
"The mind is the greatest computer ever made, and what we put in it will come out later, said Kern, a former teacher. "If we expose children to sexual material without parental knowledge and guidance, we're programming them for destruction.
Rep. Ray McCarter, D-Marlow, voted against the bill, saying it limits parental control because legislators are telling them what books their children shouldn't read.
"This bill is our Legislature telling our local communities and parents we don't trust the decisions you make, he said. "(The bill) is extortion for the purpose of censorship.
One legislator even questioned whether the Bible would have to be placed in a special section because it discusses homosexuality and sex.
Kern said the Bible would not qualify because the material is not explicit.
Jeanie Johnson, president of the Oklahoma Library Association, said the bill "flies in the face of the idea of a public library.
"Every parent has the right to monitor what their children are reading, and should, she said. "But I don't have the right to choose for another parent what is right for their child.
Public libraries have policies in place where a visitor can appeal to the library to remove a book from the shelves. Johnson said that is sufficient to ensure offensive books are removed.
"What is offensive to me might not be offensive to you, she said. "If it is offensive to me, I don't read it. But that doesn't mean I don't think anyone else should read it.
The bill passed out of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, 13-3, and is headed to the full House.Archive ID: 3050619