EveryLibrary Releases Comprehensive Report on 2023 Legislation Impacting Libraries
Over the past few months, there has been a wave of state legislation that has had a largely negative effect on libraries. These bills have been primarily focused on restricting access to certain materials, particularly those considered harmful or inappropriate for minors. EveryLibrary's report highlights the alarming trends within this legislative landscape and offers strategic recommendations for state library association leaders and legislative advocates to navigate these challenges successfully.
As of June 17, 2023, a total of twenty-four bills have been passed in state legislatures, with two being vetoed and twenty-two currently in various stages of enactment. These bills have been enacted in fourteen states, namely Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. The report identifies recurring themes within these bills that pose potential challenges to the operations and services of libraries.
Among the key issues addressed in the report are the removal of historic defenses from criminal prosecution for public librarians, schools, or libraries over books and materials. This raises concerns about the professional autonomy of librarians and their ability to provide access to content without fear of legal repercussions. Additionally, the report highlights themes such as changes to the definitions of obscenity and material harmful to minors, modifications to collection development and challenge policies, mandates for age verification checks for patrons, creation of new liabilities for school libraries, withholding of funds, and the imposition of book rating systems.
The report goes beyond mere monitoring of legislation by providing valuable insights and recommendations for state library associations to plan for more favorable outcomes in the 2024 legislative cycle. It emphasizes the importance of not only engaging within the legislature but also being prepared for potential vetoes, especially when they seem likely or inevitable. Furthermore, the report stresses the significance of post-legislative advocacy, an often neglected aspect of traditional library advocacy discussions. Even after a bill becomes law, advocates must remain involved in implementation, rules-making, and exploring appropriate pathways to relief in the courts.
"Unpacking 2023 Legislation of Concern for Libraries"concludes with a powerful call to action for library advocates to adopt an activism model. This approach involves building political power by actively engaging supporters of libraries among the public. It urges library associations to identify their supporters, donors, and volunteers and to mobilize them for library causes as early as possible. The report serves as an invaluable resource for anyone involved in library advocacy, providing essential insights and strategies to navigate the complex legislative landscape.
EveryLibrary is a 501c4 political action committee dedicated to building voter support for libraries. Since 2012, EveryLibrary has provided donor-supported pro-bono advising and consulting to 63 library campaigns helping to win over $220 million in stable tax funding. Beginning in 2016, EveryLibrary has provided strategic and tactical support to school library communities on education and tax policy, along with supporting dozens of challenges to school library budgets and school librarian positions in schools and districts across the country.
Kosi Harris, Publicist: Kosiharrispr@gmail.com