Idaho is currently going through quite a contentious moment in time in regards to what types of books should be available to youth in public libraries and defining who should decide what books are acceptable. On one side many parents and government officials want certain books to have either restricted access or be removed completely from library catalogs. On the other side, many community members and the American Library Association want to provide the freedom for all to choose, even if the contents of a book could be considered offensive to someone.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Controversy Over Idaho House Bill 666

In March of 2022, Idaho House Bill 666 was introduced as a way to hold librarians, museums, and schools accountable for the content on their shelves. If a child brought home a book that their parent deemed offensive, they would be able to prosecute with claims the book was offensive to minors. The bill was passed in the House on March 7, but hasn’t appeared before the Senate and most likely never will. Still, the thought that this form of censorship and accountability could become law in Idaho was scary to many.

Why You Should Care Right Now What Book Banning Means In Idaho

One concern over House Bill 666 for librarians is that any book in their library could be considered offensive to someone. They decide if a book should be available, but the parents and community ultimately decide if the book is going to be offensive or harmful. If a child reads a book where the main character had a bunch of friends and that child is bullied, that could make the child feel bad. Maybe that child then self-harms or commits suicide. The parent could then say the book targets vulnerable children and the librarian should be held accountable for giving the book to the child. Backers of the bill say they are ‘simply asking that those that are responsible for the materials in our libraries… are handled sensitively and responsibly. There needs to be more vigilance.’

What Does Book Banning Actually Mean in Idaho?

Each year hundreds of books are challenged in an attempt to ban them from library shelves. The ALA states on their website that they do not and never will ban books from their libraries, but they do keep track of which books are challenged. The ALA Banned Books Week 2022 event, to raise awareness about book censorship in the United States, is coming up on September 18-24.

attachment-Disorganized Books

What Happens When A Book Is Banned

If a book is banned, that doesn’t make it illegal to own or read. It only means it isn’t accessible in a certain location. Attempting to ban books in Idaho could also have reverse effects than intended. A local author wrote that having your book banned is akin to winning an award or becoming a martyr. This attention could get the book more attention, sales, and readers than would have happened otherwise. Others claim that even if their attempt to ban a book has adverse effects, they have to do all that they can to protect their children.

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To combat having potentially offensive books get into the hands of children, some libraries in other countries have resorted to designating certain sections in the library for youth books that may be controversial. But, again, who decides if a book is controversial? That section of the library could quickly end up larger than the approved books section.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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