Idaho Public Library to Go Adults-Only Due to New Book Ban Law

DONNELLY, Idaho—A small town public library in Idaho announced last week that it would no longer allow in minors under the age of 18 due to a controversial new law that allows parents or guardians to file lawsuits against public library districts for carrying content they would view as age-inappropriate

The Donnelly Public Library, a small library based in a literal log cabin in the village of Donnelly, Idaho, made the annoucement in a Facebook post after lawmakers adopted House Bill (HB) 710.

"Donnelly Public Library was deeply saddened by the passing of HB 710," the public library posted to its official Facebook page on May 14. "Unfortunately, the ambiguous language in the legislation leaves us no options but to make some very drastic changes. ... Our size prohibits us from separating our “grown-up” books to be out of the accessible range of children.

"In order to comply with the legislation, we will be transitioning our Library to be an adult-only library as of July 1," the post contined. "This change is painful and not what we had hoped for at all. We desire to comply with state and federal legislation, but because of size, we have to protect our staff, our library, and our taxpayer money."

HB 710 creates a cause of action for parents or guardians to bring a lawsuit for actual damages and statutory damages of up to $250 for a school or public library carrying material that is considered "obscene." Language in the bill considers obscene material to be virtually anything that is sexual and has been criticized by opponents as being overly broad. The bill also provides a cause of action for any county prosecuting attorneys or the Idaho Attorney General to bring a lawsuit against any school or public library that supposedly violates the law.

The library said it would continue to offer after-school programs and summer learning targeting local youth. This is the main source of income for the library.

"After-school programming has become an essential part of the Library. It is our primary source of funding through both grants as well as tuition monies paid by participants," the library said. "It is imperative we continue to grow our programming offerings. Over half of our payroll is covered through programming and much of our current collection is also covered through programming costs."