Louisiana AG calls for changes to public libraries in new report

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry believes changes should be made to the state’s public libraries to prevent children’s access to certain books and materials.

Landry, who has announced he is running for governor in 2023, was critical of materials available to children at libraries in his “Protecting Innocence” report released Tuesday. The attorney general specifically targeted sexual content that he says is too easy for children to access.

Jeff Landry (Source: ag.state.la.us)

“I believe we must protect the innocence of Louisiana’s children, and that is why my office and I have put together this guide in response to parents and guardians around our state who are deeply concerned,” Landry said laying out his report.

The report identifies nine books Landry says “contains examples of sexually explicit materials.” The report includes exerts and illustrations from books that Landry believes are inappropriate for children.

New Bills Proposed

Two state lawmakers joined Landry Tuesday announcing they are filing bills that would put controls on library cards for minors. Landry is calling on libraries to adopt and implement policies that remove sexually explicit materials intended for children.

Landry wants changes to the library card system that would allow parents to choose whether their child should be allowed to check-out sexually explicit materials. The system would block children from checking out some materials from libraries.

“I believe that libraries should house a variety of diverse and inclusive viewpoints – not only because we are all unique individuals, but also because we must face unique problems,” Landry said in the report. “At the same time, children and teenagers do not have the emotional maturity of adults and may be unprepared to experience certain aspects of our world.”

Landy says that many libraries lack adequate policies addressing the access of minors to sexually explicit materials. One of the bills being proposed would require libraries to adopt and implement policy language to limit access to sexually explicit materials to minors.

Landry’s report includes resources for parents who are concerned about material in their own libraries. Some of the resources are sample letters to various library control agencies. He also included links to current library policy for each parish.

Fight to Ban Books

Landry’s report comes after fallout from libraries around the state over what some viewed as inappropriate material for children.

In September 2022, the Livingston parish Board of Control opted to maintain its current policies on challenging books despite a letter from Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks asking to remove certain books from the children’s section to the adult section of parish libraries.

“The age of consent in Louisiana is 17. The legal drinking age is 21. That is important because it is evidence that our society believes young people below a certain age must be protected,” Ricks said in his letter. “They are too young to make certain decisions because the wrong decision could be very harmful.”

Despite the letter and public comments, the board decided that anyone who has concerns about a book is to follow policy and fill out a request for reconsideration of library materials form.

The form allows residents to file complaints against books they may consider inappropriate, which then goes to the library staff to review and suggest action to be taken if deemed necessary. There is no set timeframe on the process, according to a staff member at the Denham Springs-Walker branch.

The argument over restricting access to certain books began at the library board meeting July 19th when member Erin Sandefur brought an item titled “book content” to the agenda.

During that meeting, Sandefur had a list of eight books to consider restricting access to, with content including a preschool-level picture book about transgender identities and a dating guide for teenage boys with a sexually explicit illustration.

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