OKLAHOMA CITY Oklahoma libraries could be burdened by guidelines adopted by a state House panel Wednesday to require materials containing sexually explicit or gay themes to be removed from general reading areas for children and young adults, library officials said.
The bill, by Representative Sally Kern, a Republican, would withhold state funds from public libraries that do not place the materials in a special area of the library. The guidelines have been adopted by the state’s two largest library systems, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but officials said small libraries may have a hard time complying.
“We’re really concerned about it,” said Jeanie Johnson, president of Oklahoma Library Association. “The idea that we would restrict books really restricts freedoms.”
Preliminary estimates indicate it will cost $826,000 to renovate small public libraries to create special areas for the material, Johnson said.
There are more than 200 public and special libraries in Oklahoma.
Bill Young, spokesman for the state Department of Libraries, said the regulations tie compliance to the distribution of library funds by the state’s seven-member library board.
“We don’t want to overburden smaller libraries. But we will follow the law if it is the law,” Young said.
Kern said she wants a special shelving policy to shield children from language and behaviors they are not mature enough to understand.
“It’s protecting the future of our children,” she said. “Sex is not bad. Sex is not wrong. It’s the misuse of it.”
Kern said the measure will encourage libraries to ensure that parents know the content of children’s books before a child reads them.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 10, 2006.