It likely was not the intention of our own state Sen. Paul Bailey or state Rep. Andy Holt to tell parents how to raise their children when they introduced a bill calling for a parental oversight board for Tennessee’s public libraries.

Not only have they done just that, the Republican legislators have given a vote of no confidence to the hundreds of staff members of Tennessee’s public libraries, including our own Art Circle Public Library.

The Parent Oversight of Public Libraries Act would mandate electing five adults to a board to determine whether sexual material provided to the public is “age-inappropriate sexual material” that depict “nudity, sexuality, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse.”

The elected five adults would be required to conduct public hearings. They would also be empowered to order any such materials from public access from minors at the library, with no means of appeal or review other than through the court system.

The bill would make it a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 maximum fine and/or jail time for library staff failing to comply. It would also remove the library from eligibility for state funding.

We heartily concur with both the Tennessee Library Association and the American Library Association and join them in vigorously opposing this measure.

“The belief that a small group of parents know what is best for every family in their community denies the very real fact that each community is made up of families and individuals with diverse beliefs, identities and values,” the ALA said in its statement. 

Added the TLA, “The Tennessee Code Annotated provides public libraries local control over collections, meeting spaces, and other matters of policy through governing boards appointed within each community by local government. Therefore, TLA feels the proposal, if enacted, would mandate un-necessary and duplicated legislation, placing an added burden of government oversight on local library boards.”

We trust our library staff and its appointed board. They do a remarkable, often thankless job of encouraging patrons to use the library. They are knowledgeable, conscientious, responsible and protective of all library users, especially the youngest and most vulnerable.

Instead of creating mandates that threaten our libraries and their staffs, we suggest Bailey and Holt use their positions to find ways to increase library funding and support measures to draw more people into using these valuable community assets.

— Crossville Chronicle