Missouri’s Libraries Need Our Help

By Nicole Mitchell
Photo by Kelcie McKenney

America’s politicians have been challenging the books minors are able to read in school for years, but a proposed administrative rule from Missouri Secretary of State John R. Ashcroft is threatening public library books and other resources—and Missouri libraries need our help. If it goes through, this rule would take choices out of the individual and instead given to the state and activist groups, putting restrictions on ideas, stories, and individuals’ experiences.

About the rule

Ashcroft’s proposed rule would require state-funded libraries to create collection development policies and public programming guidelines that “protect minors from non-age-appropriate materials”—meaning parents could challenge age guidelines and requirements. Any public library deemed non-compliant could forfeit appropriated funds from the Missouri State Library. Libraries across the state, including the Kansas City Public Library, urge Missouri citizens to speak out about the dangers of this rule. Consequences of the rule threaten to be a disservice to the community in many ways:

  • Restrictions based on the thoughts of the general minority
  • Restraints on children’s access to reading materials
  • Tighter budgets and stricter controls for public libraries

As of right now, Missouri libraries adhere to the Library Bill of Rights, which states, “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” However, this rule would make it so that is not true.

It’s important to state that the proposed rule doesn’t say it would remove books and other materials; however, it could serve as a tool for censorship based on the changes that the public demands. “The guidelines would invite and empower individuals—or a private group of individuals—to instigate action,” the Kansas City Public Library wrote. “The state would back them with the threat of withholding funding from noncompliant library systems.”

How to help

Missouri libraries were given a 30-day period for public comment that opened November 15.

Libraries across the state urge citicans to contact the secretary of state’s office during this period and speak up for the right to read. The Kansas City Public Library wrote in its statement, “Share why you want to continue to make your own reading choices, push back against efforts to remove books from shelves, and reject policies that target libraries and educators for serving all people in our community.” Community members have until December 15 to voice their concerns of the proposed rule.

Email comments@sos.mo.gov with the proposed rule number, 15 CSP 30-200.015, in the subject field, or visit the Kansas City Public Library website for an email with the To and Subject fields prefilled.

Nicole Mitchell
 (she/they) is a writer and social media manager who graduated December 2020 with a degree in strategic communication. A few of her favorite things include cuddling with cats, listening to Bon Iver, making lattes, and running her book club (even though sometimes she forgets to read the books.)

Kelcie McKenney (she/her) is a writer, editor, and artist who is passionate about intersectional feminism, local activism, queer representation, and strengthening community. You can find Kelcie reading (probably smut or Twilight), talking astrology, hanging with her three-legged cat and four-legged dog, or trying to overthrow the patriarchy.

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