Missouri House votes to defund libraries as Senate plans to add money back to budget
News broke last week that Missouri’s state House had passed a budget to stop using taxpayer dollars to fund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at health care facilities and educational institutions. What was buried in the proposed budget was that the 160 library districts in Missouri would lose $4.5 million in funding.
It comes down to a lawsuit filed by the Missouri Association of School Librarians and the Missouri Library Association to declare that the Missouri Revised Statute §573.550 is unconstitutional. The statute says anyone in an official position at a school such as a librarian or teacher distributing “explicit sexual material” to children will be charged with a misdemeanor.
The librarians filed Missouri Association of School Librarians v. Baker in Jackson County Circuit Court against the state’s prosecuting attorneys because they felt they had to take legal action against legislators to protect themselves.
In retaliation, the House Republicans decided to not give public libraries their funding in fear that the money would be spent on the legal costs surrounding the lawsuit. The Missouri ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.
The American Civil Liberties Union and its offices across the country are working pro bono on litigation focused on banned books. That means the libraries were going to be defunded over a falsehood that funding would go to legal fees.
The chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee in Missouri said the $4.5 million will be added back into the state budget for libraries.
In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned the Texas federal judge who ordered 12 books to be returned to the shelves of the Llano County public libraries. A lawsuit that was filed by a group of residents concerned over the removal still had to play out in court.
It’s usually routine for a judge to make an order like this to ensure fairness during the length of an ongoing lawsuit. But on Thursday, the county commissioners held a special meeting to decide whether to close the county’s library system. The libraries will remain open — for now.
Back in September, I mentioned how Patmos Library in Michigan was defunded by voters who rejected a measure to fund the library over concerns of LGBTQIA+ books that weren’t even on its shelves. The news went viral, and the library was able to push back its closure with $100,000 donated by residents.
Legal actions in the form of lawsuits, bills, and measures can erase money for publicly funded libraries. These actions are being raised over a handful of books, some of these books are marketed toward children while others are for adults. Either way, the personal control of borrowing a book from the library is being undermined by the day.