(The Center Square) – Wisconsin Republican lawmakers insist their plan to inform parents what their children are checking out of the library is not about banning books.
A Senate panel held a hearing on two plans that would have school and public libraries create a list of every book children under 16 years old check out and give that list with parents within 24 hours.
“Our librarians are not villains. They’re good people. We want to help and make this easier for them, easier for families, and get everybody working on the same team for the benefit of our kids again,” Rep Barb Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc, told the Senate Committee.
Dittrich and Sen. Romaine Quinn, R-Cameron, are sponsoring the legislation. They say parents came to them with the idea.
“This bill puts the parent and/or guardian in the driver’s seat to have conversations with their children about any materials or themes that they find their child is not ready to be exposed to,” Quinn said. “The onus should not be put on the librarian, the aid or the volunteer to make that decision as parenting styles differ from family to family.”
Some school libraries and public libraries currently track who checks out what, but the new legislation would require schools and libraries to share that list with parents.
Democrats at the Capitol are blasting the plan as anti-LGBTQ and a clamp down on free speech.
“Parents in Wisconsin already have the ability to see what their child is checking out from the library – but this proposed legislation would discourage kids from exploring all the perspectives and stories that a library has to offer,” Sen. Melissa Agard, D-Madison, said.
Dittrich said the idea for a library list came after some parents saw what their children were learning and reading when schools closed for COVID-19.
She denies the idea that this list is being suggested as a way to ban certain books.
“Frankly, we all know there is some graphic content and some of the things in our public libraries and our school libraries as well now,” Dittrich said.
She said she wants to “bring the temperature down.”
Agard accused Republicans of trying to force a one-size-fits-all answer to a question better left to parents.
“How hypocritical that Wisconsin Republicans, the party of ‘small government’, want to ban books and know what every individual is checking out from the library. This Orwellian inspired overreach is chilling and intimidates our librarians and educators under the facade of parental rights. Senate Democrats do not support these GOP efforts to stifle learning and limit access to information,” Shard said. “Previously, Wisconsin Republicans have put forward legislation that would ban certain books based on their content. This follows a national trend of Republican legislators aiming to restrict material they deem offensive.”