Ohio libraries could lose funding if they display items 'harmful to juveniles' under bill

An Ohio lawmaker wants to ban children and teens seeing library books depicting nudity or sex without the consent from their parents

Columbus Dispatch

An Ohio lawmaker wants to keep children and teens from seeing library books depicting nudity or sex without the consent from their parents.

Republican Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, to prohibit libraries from displaying materials "harmful to juveniles" or risk losing funding if they fail to follow the policies outlined in the bill.

An Ohio lawmaker wants libraries to hide material depicting nudity or sex from public view.

The bill defines material harmful to juveniles as anything that describes or represents "nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse in any form." To be considered harmful, the material would have to appeal to the prurient interest and be patently offensive to the community standards about what is suitable for children and teens.

The material would also have to be considered to have no serious literary, artistic, political and scientific value for children and teens.

“This legislation protects Ohio’s minors and supports the authority of parents to have a say in what their children are consuming,” Cutrona said in a news release.

Michelle Francis, executive director of the Ohio Library Council, said in a statement that Ohio public libraries already have policies to address the issues Cutrona raised.

"The public library is a public space that is 'open to all' where we celebrate the freedom to read and do not discriminate. Just because we have a book on the shelf or in the catalog doesn't mean library patrons are required to read it or check it out," Francis said. "Our goal is to have something for everyone. It is important to remember that we serve all ages from birth to seniors and Ohio's public libraries have the highest usage per capita in the nation."

Francis said that parents and guardians have a right to determine what's best for their child, but not the right to dictate what is best for every child who comes into the library.

"We have serious concerns about the chilling effect HB 622 could have on Ohio's literacy efforts and the importance of reading," she said.

Cutrona's bill would require libraries to hide any material considered harmful from public view, by wrapping or covering it or placing it behind the circulation desk or a blinder rack.

The bill has not yet been assigned to a committee or had any hearings.

Erin Glynn is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.