The Tennessee legislature is currently debating the merits of HB2721/SB2896, the “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act.”

These companion bills seek to censure library materials “in all forms” through mandatory parental oversight boards. This “board” is subject to no authority and can, without any training or experience, remove items from Library Collections based merely on their own opinions. They shall make “the final determination or order on such materials and shall not be subject to any review.”

The bill establishes a twenty-two-thousand-dollar unfunded mandate for every local municipality to hold an election for creating this board. It also mandates “a fine…, or term of imprisonment, or both” to library personnel who intentionally fail to comply with this imposition, as well as the withholding of state funds to the library.

Title 10 of the Tennessee Code provides public libraries local control over collections, meeting spaces, and other matters of policy through governing boards appointed within each community.

Public libraries already possess policies and procedures that allow concerned parents, or other members of the community, to request a review of library materials.

The local community, therefore, historically and currently plays a role in materials selection and maintenance within their libraries. Moreover, our local public library Board has already established policies related to the use of their facilities and public meeting spaces that reflect the needs of the communities in effective and non-discriminatory ways.

Public libraries exist to provide free and open access to information to everyone, and in many locales, serve as a hub of community engagement and learning.

It is our opinion that parents and guardians should continue making the decision(s) as to what is age-appropriate for their minor children—not an unregulated and unnecessary panel elected by the local legislative body.

We urge our State House and Senate representatives to actively decline the advance of, or defeat, these bills; and instead, join our efforts in maintaining the integrity of these vital institutions which work tirelessly to serve our communities.

Cocke County Library Board

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