Report: “Why Iowa’s Ban on Books with Sex Could Sink Libraries Shared by Schools and Small Towns”
From the Des Moines Register:
The small farming community of Alta in northwest Iowa barely has 2,000 residents. The elementary school that shares its name has fewer than 300 students.
Neither is big enough to have a quality library on its own. So for the last 20 years, the two have operated a library together, sharing a building and books to save money and provide a gathering place for residents and students.
Now, that partnership is in danger of unraveling — jeopardized by a new state law that as of July 1 requires schools, and their libraries, to remove books that contain descriptions of sex acts.
Previously able to freely share every book on its shelves, the library must figure out how to effectively split itself in two — sequestering the books the law says students should no longer access without restricting residents’ rights to read what they wish.
“We’ve been really trying to figure out a way to make this work,” said Tirzah Price, the former Alta Public Library director, “and to figure out a way that we can still continue to work together because we all understand it’s a small community; there’s limited resources.”
The dilemma facing the city of Alta and the Alta-Aurelia Community School District isn’t unique. Education advocates estimate as many as eight Iowa school districts and cities that share public libraries are affected by Senate File 496, the education bill Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law May 26.
In addition to banning most books featuring sex acts, the new law bars instruction and discussion about gender identity through sixth grade and requires educators to notify caregivers if students request to use pronouns that differ from their sex at birth.
The Huxley Public Library staff have begun recoding books to ensure Ballard Middle School students do not check out books with themes that run afoul of the law, said Cathy Van Maanen, library director and Ballard Middle School librarian.
The Lake Park Public Library and the Harris-Lake Park Community School District, united by an almost 20-year agreement, have not settled on a plan for how they will navigate complying with the new law, said Deb Grubich, library director. The library is shared with middle and high school students.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.