Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2024 Issue

Legislation Proposed that Can Make Librarians Felons

Judge Shakespeare decides whether his writings are felonious.

The obscenity police are on the prowl again. This time, it's school librarians and teachers they have in their sights. A bill has been introduced to the Ohio legislature to turn pornography promoting school librarians into felons. Apparently, this must be a problem with school librarians in Ohio, although the state does not have a reputation as a hotbed for such strange practices. Why else would a state legislator see a need to introduce a bill titled “To amend sections 2907.32 and 2907.35 of the Revised Code to create criminal liability for certain teachers and librarians for the offense of pandering obscenity.”


The author of this apparently needed piece of legislation to control the obscenity-promoting school librarians and teachers of Ohio is Rep. Adam Mathews. Naturally, “obscenity” is hard to define. Mathews indicated this is not a problem because Ohio law already defines “obscenity,” but that definition is typically vague. It defines material as obscene if it appeals to “prurient interests,” is patently offensive, and as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Of course, that is all subjective so it is hard for a librarian to make that determination. However, they better not make a wrong call or they could end up being a felon.


Rep. Mathews said that the legislation set a high bar to books being classified as obscene, reassuring that Shakespeare and The Scarlet Letter would not be banned. However, nothing in the legislation prevents those books, or any others, from being banned if some authority decides they appeal to “prurient interests.” Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro was less sanguine about the effects of this bill. According to NBC4 Columbus, he said he was “appalled” by the bill, questioning whether teachers would want to stay in the profession with the potential for criminal prosecution “with a fuzzy definition of what would constitute a crime.” In a hopeful sign to those opposed to censorship, Gov. Mike DeWine indicated that book bans are generally dealt with by parents at a local level, rather than state legislation.


Is this really a problem? Are Ohio school librarians really filling their shelves with pornography, with the approval of local officials? This looks like a fake issue, a politician using what sounds like a motherhood and apple pie cause to burnish his reputation, with little concern as to what impact it might have on their constituents' basic freedoms to read, speak, teach and learn. Legislators should not be messing with First Amendment freedoms without a compelling reason, and creating fake issues to embellish your image is not a compelling reason. I'd rather see librarians writing legislation than politicians choosing books for libraries. I trust their motivation and ethics more.

Posted On: 2024-07-01 17:04
User Name: dhiebert645

If one peruses the titles that have prompted such legislative responses, the titles are so far over the line that they are not in vague, subjective territory. The books are so bad, both textually and graphically, that school boards have forbidden angry parents from displaying or reading portions of them at school board meetings, sometimes claiming that they are afraid of running afoul of broadcast decency legislation for meetings that are broadcast. This, of course, raises the question as to why are such titles are deemed acceptable for children to read if the the school board, itself, recognizes that the titles are too offensive to be read in an adult venue.

There is an ideological push by an activist minority who are trying to obliterate any lines, standards, or boundaries and parents are very upset by what they find is being presented to their children.

No doubt, any legislative response to such extremes is going to raises questions about material that is much nearer the fuzzy line. But "freedom of speech" and the lack of clear black and white is being exploited by this activist minority to go full extreme without limit.

John Adams said, "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." His claim is abruptly being put to the test.

Posted On: 2024-07-02 11:04
User Name: imsimj

The comment refering to an ideological push by an activist minority appears to be correct- but applies to the activists such as dhiebert645 who seek to ban books.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, first hardback edition, 1997. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, July 18: Binding.- Lucian of Samosata Opuscula Erasmo Roterodamo interprete, first Aldine edition, Venice, Heirs of Aldus Manutius and A, 1516. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bacon (Sir Francis). De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum Libri IX, Pierre Gassendi's copy gifted him by Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, Paris, Typis Petri Mettayer, 1624. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Shakespeare (William). The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry, Sirnamed Hot-Spurre…, Printed by Isaac Jaggard, and Ed. Blount, 1623. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Darwin (Charles). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, third edition, presentation inscription 'From the Author' in a secretary's hand, John Murray, 1861. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Teague (Violet). Geraldine Rede. Night Fall in the Ti-Tree, first edition, Melbourne, Sign of the Rabbit, 1905; and another. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: India.- Primrose (Gen. James Maurice). Collection of 24 original drawings from his time in India with the 43rd Regiment of Foot, circa 1855 to 1864. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum, July 18: Manet (Édouard). Trente Eaux-fortes originales, the complete portfolio, Paris, A. Stroelin, 1905. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bible, English. [The Holy Bible], first edition of the King James Bible, the Great 'He' Bible, [Robert Barker], [1611]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: America.- Mathews (Alfred E.) Pencil Sketches of Montana, first edition, New York, Published by the Author, 1868. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bawden (Edward). Original dust-jacket artwork for 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus, [c.1946]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    Forum, July 18: World.- Fries (Laurent). Tabula Nova Totius Orbis, woodcut map, [c.1541]. £3,000 to £5,000.

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