BATON ROUGE—As controversy swells in Louisiana over library content, the House Committee on Education voted 8-3 Tuesday to advance a bill that would require public libraries to limit minors’ access to sexually explicit material.
Under the bill, authored by Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, libraries would have to create card systems through which parents would decide whether their child could check out explicit material. Cloud pitched her bill as protecting parental rights.
Libraries would also have to take community standards into consideration when acquiring materials for minors. Critics worry this would target LGBTQ content, which has been a major source of opposition at local library control meetings.
Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican running for governor, was at the hearing to support the bill. As libraries have become political battlegrounds in Louisiana, Landry has pushed to restrict children’s access to material.
Landry released a “Protecting Innocence” report in February that included book excerpts he described as “extremely graphic sexual content.” The books included “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson and “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison.
“When the community knows exactly what’s going on in their library, they seem to be shocked,” Landry said.
Critics of the bill noted that many of the books highlighted in the report as inappropriate are focused on LGBTQ topics. Mary Stein, an East Baton Rouge public librarian, said the graphic novels noted by the attorney general are shelved in the adult department at her library.
Stein said children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult while in the library. Parents are free to continue to accompany their children past that age so they can monitor what books they are checking out.
Amanda Jones, the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, called the bill “a solution in search of a problem.”
Jones, who in March won the American Association of School Librarians’ Intellectual Freedom Award for her efforts to curb book restrictions in Louisiana, said she was disheartened by disinformation circulating about libraries in the state.
“We have never had an issue with our libraries until they started being used for political gain,” Jones said.
St. Tammany Parish is one area that has seen opposition to its public libraries’ book collections. The library board has received more than 200 complaints since August 2022, according to the Louisiana Illuminator. Most of the complaints are about books with LGBTQ themes for children or young adults.
Jamie Segura, a Covington resident, called the bill “a gross overreach” by the Legislature. She pointed to high child poverty rates in the state, suggesting lawmakers could be focused on issues like that.