A standing room only crowd packs the Lassen District Library during the Thursday, April 20, 2023, board meeting. Now the issue of what books should be available at a public library has reignited as the Hunting Beach City Council considers an ordinance establishing a community group that will decide which books should be on the library's shelves..

How do you decide what your child should or should not read?

Editors Note: Readers certainly will remember this issue was recently a topic of discussion at two Susanville Library District Board of Directors meetings. Now it’s popping up in Huntington Beach, California.

If you’re a resident of Huntington Beach, your city council is ready to insert itself into your family’s decision, imposing its own view of what’s best for you and your family — but under the guise of providing parental oversight.

Later today, the city council will consider Resolution No. 2023-41, which would prohibit any city library from allowing access to “any content of a sexual nature for anyone under 18 years of age without consent of a parent or guardian” — a provision that would in practical effect block access to a breathtakingly broad range of reading material for anyone under the age of 18, since the process for parental “consent” is left unaddressed in the resolution, and the prohibition applies regardless of “whether the books or materials are intended for children or adults.”

Alice Allison said she’s the one who asked the library staff to remove the rainbow flag. Some demanded some books be removed.

In response to this clear threat to the First Amendment, FAC, the ACLU of Southern California and the Freedom to Read Foundation are urging the city council to reject the resolution.

As the groups write, this proposal would impose an “unconstitutional censorship regime on the people’s right to access library books and materials protected by the First Amendment,” noting that everything from seminal works of literature such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Great Gatsby,” “1984,” and “Beloved,” to textbooks such as “Introduction to Plant Reproduction,” to the “Bible,” would be covered by the resolution’s overbroad definition of “content of a sexual nature.”

Just as concerning, the resolution would also establish a “community parent/guardian review board” that would have veto power over the city library’s acquisition of new children’s books “containing any sexual writing, sexual references, sexual images and/or other sexual content.” Such a ban on the acquisition of new material would be based solely on undefined “community standards of acceptance.”

Lassen Library employee Jamie said she posted this small rainbow flag on a bulletin board in the children’s section of the library, igniting the local controversy. She said if people didn’t want their children to read certain books, they shouldn’t check them out of the library. Photos by Sam Williams

“Parents and children have the right to decide for themselves what library books to read,” said David Loy, Legal Director for the First Amendment Coalition. “The government does not belong in the censorship business.”

See the full letter here.