'Restricted' library cards introduced by Idaho Falls Library. Here's what it means for you and your kids - East Idaho News

‘Restricted’ library cards introduced by Idaho Falls Library. Here’s what it means for you and your kids

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IDAHO FALLS — Parents will have to get new library cards for their kids, the Idaho Falls Public Library announced late last month.

The library is now offering different types of access for children to prevent them from accessing certain types of material.

“Because of this change, all children’s cards have expired,” the library posted on its Facebook account. Parents or legal guardians must go to the library in person to choose a new card option for their children.

Here is how the new access breaks down:

  • Restricted child card – Children will only be able to check out materials available in the children’s department.
  • Unrestricted child card – Kids can check out materials throughout the whole library, except for adult graphic novels, Blu-rays and DVDs.
  • Adult cards (issued to those 18+) – These allow library patrons to check out all materials the library offers.

“If parents currently have books on hold with their child’s card, they will need to choose which access they want the child to have before the holds can be checked out,” library staff clarified in the post’s comments. “If the child’s card has DVDs, Blu-rays or adult graphic novels on hold, then those items will need to be checked out on (an adult’s) card.”

Deeper issues

According to a statement from the library board, the change was in response to House Bill 314.

House Bill 314, introduced by lawmakers earlier this year, would have made librarians liable for handing out “harmful material.” The bill initially passed the Idaho House and Senate, but ultimately failed after Gov. Brad Little vetoed the legislation. A House attempt to override the veto then failed, falling short by one vote.

RELATED | Idaho governor vetoes bill to create ‘bounty’ on libraries. Here’s why

Similar bills continue to be discussed by legislators. Some school and library officials have responded by preemptively limiting access to books.

In February, the Kuna School District placed 25 books on its “behind the shelf” policy so students need parental permission to check them out.

In April, Ada Community Library’s board voted to remove six books from its collection. Under Idaho law, the books would be classified as “harmful to minors,” but libraries are exempt from the law. The decision was nullified later because board members voted in violation of Idaho’s open meeting law.

The preemptive approach isn’t one taken by all Idaho libraries.

Valerie Vail, director of Madison Public Library in Rexburg, told EastIdahoNews.com the Madison Library District hasn’t considered doing anything similar.

“It is not in our plans going forward,” she said. “I do know there has been a lot of push with the legislation to change libraries and what is accessible for different ages.”

Vail added that library leadership is keeping a close eye on legislation. If a bill similar to House Bill 314 does pass in the future, “we will strive to remain in compliance with any laws enacted by the state.”

Censorship or healthy boundaries?

Make no mistake: The Idaho Falls Public Library isn’t removing books from shelves or even putting them behind the counter.

“The library isn’t limiting access to anything,” Idaho Falls Public Library Director Robert Wright told EastIdahoNews.com.

“What we did was empower parents,” he said, emphasizing that parents can now choose what reading materials their children have access to.

“We respect the role of parents to make individual choices for their families,” the library board’s statement said.

“The library doesn’t want to make choices that parents should be making,” Wright said. “We had a number of parents approach the board about this issue.”

He also noted that the library board had been talking about making a move like this since October.

Parents may switch their children’s card to either Restricted or Unrestricted at any time, Wright said. Parents can also monitor what materials kids have checked out on their card by visiting the library’s website and logging in with their library card number and four digit PIN.

Patron reaction

Taryn McKim of Idaho Falls has two children, whom she homeschools.

“At the end of the day, our kids are our responsibility,” McKim told EastIdahoNews.com. “And at the same time, our children are people and they are going to eventually make choices that (we) may or may not agree with. I think it’s good for the library to make it clear that they are not responsible for what kids check out.”

Tiffanie Tibbits doesn’t have children, but she still has a strong opinion on the library board’s decision.

“Library access as a child changed me for the better,” she said. She believes libraries are vital in allowing patrons to interact with other people and “to see a less-narrow world view.”

“Even when I was reading beyond my experience at that time, it allowed me to see other viewpoints,” she explained. “It enabled me to have more empathy for other narratives and prepared me for life outside of a small bubble. … Reading inspires empathy and personal growth.”

However you view it, whatever your feelings on it, the policy has been made. For his part, Wright would rather focus on the summer reading program that is starting soon.

“Get in there and get those cards,” he said.