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Legislative Policies of the ILA

POLICY STATEMENT

SUPPORT LOCAL CONTROL REGARDING PUBLIC LIBRARY COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT AND INTERNET ACCESS

POLICY STATEMENT: The Idaho Library Association supports local control of library collection development and decisions relating to Internet access. Local control enables public libraries to develop and implement policies that reflect community standards unique to the community that each library serves.

Public libraries acquire, make available, and encourage the use of materials in all media that:

  1. help people know more about themselves and their world;
  2. supplement formal study and encourage informal self­education;
  3. meet the informational needs of the entire community;
  4. stimulate thoughtful participation in the affairs of the community, the country, and the world;
  5. give access to a variety of opinions on matters of current interest and encourage freedom of expression;
  6. support educational, civic, and cultural activities within the community;
  7. assist the individual to grow intellectually and enjoy life more fully.

The variety and scope of materials required for information, education, and recreation are as broad as the individual and collective needs of the people within the community itself; every attempt is made to acquire materials to meet these needs. All residents of the community pay taxes, either directly or indirectly, to support the operations of the public library. It is incumbent upon the library to provide materials to meet the information needs of all its citizens, whether those needs reflect a majority or minority opinion.

The Idaho Library Association recognizes that not all library materials which may be held by a public library are suitable for all of its patrons. Parents are responsible for their children’s reading selections and for determining what is and is not appropriate for their use. The Association encourages parents to accompany their children to the library and to become involved in selecting materials and in reading with and to their children.

Likewise, policies relating to access to the resources available via the Internet should be developed locally rather than on a state level. Libraries may choose to apply Internet filtering software to some of their computers if doing so reflects general community standards. Libraries may also choose to address the issues of access to sites that the community deems to be inappropriate through other measures, such as ensuring that the computer can be seen by library staff when it is in use.

Local library boards and library staff are best suited for making such local decisions, as opposed to legislative mandates that may result in local libraries being unable to adequately meet the information needs of their particular community residents.

POLICY STATEMENT

OPPOSE ANY CHANGES TO EXISTING CODE WHICH WOULD ALLOW COUNTY COMMISSIONERS TO DENY VOTERS THE RIGHT TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO TAX THEMSELVES FOR LIBRARY SERVICES

Policy Statement: The Idaho Library Association supports existing policy of the state of Idaho which promotes the establishment and development of public library service for all the people of Idaho. The Association opposes any change to existing Idaho Code which would result in County Commissioners being able to turn down a petition to have an election for the purposes of establishing a library district, thereby denying voters their right to decide whether or not to tax themselves for library services.

As per Idaho Code 33­2701, “it is….the policy of the state of Idaho, as a part of the provisions for public education, to promote the establishment and development of public library service for all the people of Idaho. It is the purpose of [the public library districts] act to make more adequate provision for an informed electorate by integrating, extending, and adding to existing library services and resources so that public library service may be available to children in their formative years and to adults for their continuing education.”

Idaho Code currently provides a means for citizens to petition to hold an election for the purposes of establishing a library district. County commissioners are charged with holding a public hearing relating to the petition, considering the form of the petition; the genuineness of the signatures; the legality of the proceedings; and any other matters in regard to the creation of the library district. They must then render a decision regarding the election “based upon the public hearing and their determination of whether the proposed library district would be in keeping with the declared public policy of the state of Idaho in regard to districts as set forth in section 33­2701, Idaho Code.” (emphasis added).

The Code purposely does not provide for Commissioners to make a decision to approve or disapprove the petition and thereby provide for or deny an election based on their personal preferences or those of vocal proponents or opponents. To do so potentially denies citizens the opportunity to decide whether or not they wish to tax themselves for library services and thereby implement the policy of the state of Idaho as it relates to public library districts.

Allowing County Commissions broad authority to disapprove a petition or deny an election results in citizens being arbitrarily denied their opportunity to ensure for themselves access to information on all sides of the issues which are important to their lives and is in direct conflict with policy of the state of Idaho as it relates to public library service.

POLICY STATEMENT

OPPOSE EFFORTS TO ALLOW MINOR CHILDREN TO HOLD VOTING POSITIONS ON MUNICIPAL LIBRARY BOARDS

Policy Statement: The Idaho Library Association encourages public libraries to seek input from all citizens, including youth regarding library services. It supports the appointment of highly qualified candidates to board positions, without regard to demographic considerations. It opposes any legislation, which would enable the appointment of minor children to voting positions on municipal library boards. The Association encourages instead the appointment of youth advisory boards to provide broad input relating to youth library issues and services.

Idaho Code currently provides for the appointment of five members to the library board, selected from among the city’s residents. The Code states that “appointment to the board shall be made solely upon consideration of the ability of such appointees to serve the interests of the people, without regard to sex, age, race, nationality, religion, disability or political affiliation.” This not only means that individuals cannot be excluded based on one of these factors, but also that they should not be included solely because of the same factors. To do otherwise would invite special interest groups and/or anyone who perceives themself to represent any kind of minority or majority group to demand a designated seat on the library board.

It is important for the library board to represent the broad spectrum of the community, but the most important criteria for appointment to the board should be ability rather than an arbitrary demographic indicator. The Association encourages local library boards and city mayors to seek applications for library board positions and to interview potential board members, in order to ensure that well-qualified individuals are appointed.

Library boards are policy making, as opposed to advisory, boards. They make binding decisions regarding who may use the library and how it may be used; they determine the policies of the library relating to the development of the library’s materials collection; they establish fees for non-resident services and set the policy for library fines. In Idaho, minor children cannot bind themselves or others; they are not legally responsible for their debts, and they cannot enter into contracts without the signature of the parent or guardian. The Association has concerns about liability issues for the library if minor children are allowed to be voting members of library boards.

The Idaho Library Association recognizes, however, that it is critical for libraries to have input from youth relating to the services, which will attract them to the library. The Association believes that youth can have a more significant impact on the library and its services if they are allowed to comprise a youth advisory board which would include far more than simply one person as would be the case with a minor being appointed to the board. The Association encourages all public libraries to seek such input from its young citizens and library users.

POLICY STATEMENT

OPPOSE ANY EFFORTS TO CHANGE EXISTING IDAHO CODE TO SIMPLIFY REMOVAL OF LIBRARY BOARD MEMBERS

Policy Statement: The Idaho Library Association supports existing Idaho Code that requires a unanimous vote of a City Council to remove municipal public library board members and that requires a recall process to remove library district board members. Libraries play a significant role in our democracy by supporting our constitutional freedom of access to information on all sides of an issue. The existing Code provides libraries with protection from individuals or groups who wish to change that role to the detriment of the community. The Association opposes any change to the Idaho Code that would simplify removal of board members, thereby potentially politicizing an agency that needs to remain free of partisan influence and/or pressures in order to adequately serve the citizens of the community.

In order for libraries to serve all of the citizens within their respective communities, and in order for citizens to be confident that their libraries provide information on all sides of any issue, it is important that libraries remain free of partisan influence and/or pressures. Individual/personal agendas of library board members, staff members, local politicians or special interest groups should not be deciding factors in the development of library materials collections or in the provision of programs and services. Majority and minority views should be represented in the library, even though some of those views may be offensive to people who hold opposing viewpoints.

The process for removal of library board members was established in order to ensure that the library is free from partisan pressures and/or influence. Changing the process to make it easier to remove a board member jeopardizes the library’s ability to remain neutral in providing information to the community and decreases the confidence of the community’s citizens in their ability to access information which they need for their daily lives.

The Idaho Library Association is confident that local library boards are able and willing to make decisions that are in the best interests of their communities at large and that local boards are willing to work with residents to ensure that the library and its services represent the community’s standards. Since at least one library board term expires each year, citizens or mayors have a guaranteed opportunity to respectively vote for or appoint new board members to replace those who have not provided satisfactory direction for the library.

POLICY STATEMENT

OPPOSE ANY CHANGE TO THE IDAHO CODE WHICH WOULD ELIMINATE LIBRARY EMPLOYMENT AS A DEFENSE IN CASES RELATING TO THE DISTRIBUTION OF MATERIALS HARMFUL TO MINORS

Policy Statement: The Idaho Library Association supports the rights and responsibilities of parents to determine which library materials are appropriate for use by their own children. The Association acknowledges that not all library materials are appropriate for use by all library patrons and that each library patron has a different definition of what materials might be harmful to minors. Library employees are not in a position to make decisions as to what materials may or should be used by individual patrons. Parents or guardians are responsible for library materials used by minor children. Failure of a parent to provide guidance and/or restrictions for their own children does not require library staff to act in loco parentis. The Association opposes any change to the Idaho Code which would eliminate library employment as a defense in cases relating to the distribution of materials harmful to minors.

Library staff members often serve hundreds of patrons each day. They regularly make suggestions for appropriate reading/viewing/listening materials to patrons of all ages. When checking materials out of the library, they do not—nor should they be expected to—always notice what materials have been selected by the patron. They have no way of knowing whether or not a parent has approved of a minor’s selections. In an effort to be a trusted neutral means of accessing information, library employees have been trained to refrain from judging the appropriateness of patron’s selections or from questioning a patron’s reasons for desiring particular information or materials.

Although libraries select materials to reflect community standards as a whole, individual patrons whose standards differ from those of the general community may not approve of particular items in the library’s collection. A reproduction of a nude painted by Rubens or a photograph of a woman conducting a breast self-examination may be seen as “pornography” by some patrons, who might deem the material harmful to minors. Removal of the defense of library employment would put library employees in the position of “second guessing” every selection by a minor child; employees might very well err on the side of caution and refuse (for their own protection) to check out to minors any materials which might be called into question—assuming that they even notice what a particular selection might be. This may mean that the student who is doing a last minute report on Rubens isn’t allowed to take a relevant book home! Due to liability issues, some public library boards are considering the drastic step of banning unaccompanied minors from the library if this defense is removed from the Idaho Code.

The Idaho Library Association reaffirms its position that parents should be involved in their children’s library use and in the selection of materials which their own children make. It encourages parents to make clear to their children what materials are an appropriate match for their own family standards and to review their children’s selections to ensure that they are not what the parents consider to be harmful to them.

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