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One Rouge Community Check -In - Week 157

Did you know that May is #GetCaughtReadingMonth? Well, that is as good an excuse as any to talk libraries and proposed legislation that will impact them. The Louisiana Illuminator started reporting a bill introduced by Senator Cloud that would restrict minors’ access to material the library defines as sexually explicit. On Tuesday, it passed the Senate and today it comes before the House. So we are going to hear from our resident librarian Mary Stien on what it even covers, how HB25 is involved, what it is meant to accomplish, and why it is important for Louisiana families

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!



Veneeth Lyengar: I run the broadband office for the state of Louisiana, where it's called Connect la. And our office has been in existence for the last couple of years and our office was, is singularly designed to work with federal, state, local leaders to eliminate the digital divide in, in Louisiana, which is I'm not gonna belabor on how that divide came about and why it is, I think everyone knows that the divide exists. So I, what I wanted to share and I put it into the chat box, is a very important document that I'd love to get y'all's feedback on. And not now, right? It doesn't have to be now. It's feedback over the next it's a feedback, a public comment period that is open for the next 42 or so days. So until July 7th, what we have done. Is spent the last six to seven months working on the state's first digital equity plan and the state's digital equity plan. We did in partnership with libraries, all sorts of people. We did seven regional stakeholder meetings. We did 29 different focus groups. We wrote this plan in partnership at the Blanco Center Coalition of Universities and Colleges. We did this plan with partnering with libraries. So you see an obviously a very heavy emphasis and focus on the work that librarians have done throughout the state. And so this is a, this is our opening salvo to understand the depth and breadth of the problem. And start to look at implementation strategies. It is not the final plan. It is a draft of a plan. And so the homework assignment for y'all in your network is to share that link widely, what I provided to read the plan. It's a big plan, but you don't have to comment, comment on everything and spend the next 42 or so days on, on helping us improve the plan. Because then what we'll do is once the public comment period ends, we will then put together we'll work on looking at the comments, incorporating what we think is in the best interest of Louisiana relative the comments, and then we'll submit it to the federal government and then they'll look at it, review it, and then ask us questions. And then that'll then trigger some dollars for us to spend on executing the digital equity plan. So if y'all as one rouge as a coalition, Wanna submit a singular list of comments aggregating pepper if you want to do that, or if you wanna do it on behalf of everyone getting their input, that's great from an efficiency. But if every one of y'all have comments to the proposal, then we would greatly appreciate it as well. So again, it's a draft plan of our state's first digital equity plan. By no means is it the final draft, and this will likely be an evolving document over the next couple of years. So I'm gonna stop there.

Pepper Roussel: I know what it looks like to submit a comment for draft regulation at a federal level. Yeah. And also know what it looks like if you're submitting to city council and they've got proposed regs that will be coming out. Help me understand. You're accumulating them and then submitting them in attachment

Veneeth Lyengar: yeah. So what we have to do is we have to document that we've gone through this process. And what we have to do. So it's not a, so don't look at what we're trying to do as a check off the box. We don't know. We're, we live and breathe as, as employees trying to figure this stuff out every day. But there's significant knowledge gaps that we have that y'all can help us. Shapeshift this plan for the betterment of all louisianians, because it's gonna the, what we submit to the feds over the next couple of months is gonna trigger over a billion dollars in federal funding to close the digital divide. And so we wanna make sure we have a very strong actionable plan. Not something that's theoretical, but something that's very actionable to to tell N t i and to tell the public, Hey, this is what we want to do and this is how we wanna spend those dollars. And so the idea is on July 7th, the public comment period will close. We'll start to incorporate that feedback internally spending a couple of weeks doing that. And then we will submit. The plan formally to N T I A N T I A, which is a federal agency, is a national telecommunications and information administration. They may then have questions that they may ask for us that we might then go back to y'all and whomever and say, Hey, can you tell me a little bit more? But we have to track all these comments too, and we have to send these comments as part of the attachment to the, to N T I A. But what we wanna do is also look at taking these comments and make it public. When I say make it public, right now, we have a public comment period, but we don't necessarily have to actually put the public comments and make it available to the public, if that makes sense. We believe in transparency as much as we can. So the idea is to then take those public comments and by the end of after July 7th, is to put it on our website, say, hear all the comments that people had when it came to digital equity plan.

Pepper Roussel: And so the adoption of these comments into the draft, is it the more folks who have the same comment, are those the things that get adopted or

Veneeth Lyengar: That's a really good question, pepper. Casey met with the head of the digital equity efforts for the federal government last week or a couple weeks ago rather. And so she's actually gonna come back on she's gonna come back to Baton Rouge on June 8th and ninth. And so part of it is this, N T I A, the federal agency that's part of commerce is doing this. They're coming up with rules, real time, and something called a standard review real time. We'll get more, we'll have more, a better sense next week on how we should incorporate some of these comments. Or June 8th, ninth. I need honesty in these comments. Because this is the first time, so there's not been a, we've never done this as a state. We've never created a digital equity plan for the state. So I need you guys to call BS as necessary. I need you to call and say, yeah, these implementations are outta whack, because it doesn't make any sense. It doesn't align. Mary, I need you to look at it from a librarian's perspective and say, and we worked with Rebecca Kelly and Lori Blandino people you who, your colleagues and friends you should call us out and say, look, this doesn't make sense. Okay. Focus on this area. This should be an implementation strategy. And so be be as visceral in your reactions to this as possible, which I have no doubt this group can do. In the next week or so, we're gonna mail the, oh, the actual physical copy of the documents to all the libraries in the state. That's one thing. The other thing is this if you feel like, man, filling out this form is bogging my internet, then feel free to just email us your comments. I connect beneath when y'all did something before. I put table tents and we put something on every one of our thousand computers so you could see the survey right there and click through.

Mary Stein: I'm Mary Stein. I'm with your East Baton Rouge Parish Library, and if you live in East Baton Rouge Parish, you belong to me. But for the past half year, More than for the past nine months, I've been spending many hours every week thinking about all libraries in the state based on, shall we say, a misleading report and political agenda that is being played out, not only in this state, but in many states across the United States. There is a organized campaign to attack public libraries as well as school libraries, and eventually they'll get back to the university libraries to control. The kinds of books that are purchased and then made available to whoever uses that library. And this organized campaign seems to be very offended by books that represent lived experiences of A L G B T Q community. They're very upset by books that feature history where every, where, when the pilgrims came over, it wasn't just love with the Native Americans, indigenous people, and they're very upset if there's a narrative, a book that has the middle passage where it's not just. Glossed over and enslaved people were happy on plantations and the Tulsa massacre never occurred, et cetera, et cetera. They're even upset with things like Sweet Ruby Bridges. How dare we have a biography? It made my child feels sad, and I wanna say your child should feel sad when she reads about Ruby Bridges. So there's this big wave sleeping, sweeping the country a and it. Driven by political actors who are looking for votes and want to build the groundswell of their supporters. Just as in Germany, so many years ago, political actors needed something to unite people behind. And right now they're picking the experiences of l LGBTQ communities and. Anything that they're gonna say is too woke. How dare you have something that's too woke? How dare you have something that talks about gender identity? How dare you have dare. So here in Louisiana, the Attorney General released his report Protecting Innocence last year, where he says parents and librarians came to him and these books are in our libraries and our children are checking these books out. And they went on television and said, you don't want your child to check out Playboy from his library, do you? So they did those kinds of sound bites when there are no playboys in the libraries in the state of Louisiana. And if there were, we surely wouldn't let children check them out. The books that they listed were pretty much. They were, they did include sexually explicit passages, but they were mostly from the adult collection, and they were books about a lived L G B T Q experience a biography. Some of them were graphic novels, and so then the narrative became everyone knows that graphic novels are designed for kids. So obviously you are trying to recruit children, groom children, librarians have been called groomers, pedophiles we've been called complicit in the sexualization of children, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And the funny thing is there, there's way more sex in most modern romances than there are in the books that were called out by the ags office. And incidentally, the ag office also called out Tony Morrison as pornography. Senator Cloud said every book on this list is absolutely pornographic. It's just pornography. And there's Ms. Morrison's the bluest eye on this list that's being lumped in with books that are legitimately talking about experiences. And there's sex in those experiences, but they weren't in the children's room. So we've been. Doing things all year, but obviously we didn't do it well enough. And some libraries didn't respond strongly enough or when the ags office called them, they just went, huh, and didn't respond at all. So Senate Bill seven made it through the Senate. Seems two weeks ago. It made it through the house this Tuesday. The House Committee it made it through the full Senate. So the full Senate, bless Senate Bill seven, they did make some amendments to it to make it less horrible because the first bill was gonna have me have to go through all two, 2 million books page by page, looking for sex. In some states they've already banned Michelangelo statutes of David stupid stuff like that. We were gonna have to look at any book that talked about human reproduction or animal reproduction, and they seem to be real hung up on bestiality in this law. But anyway promise you, there's no bestiality in the children's room. I can promise you that there may be human reproduction and what's happening to my body and where did that baby come from? There may be books like that. There may be books that talk about my first agenda. My first. Gender. My, my first book that explains, what's this gender word stuff. There may be books like that, but there's no bestiality. I can guarantee you that. Senate Bill seven, since it's advanced through the House committee, goes to the full house maybe next week, it's a fiscal session. So they really have a lot of fiscal bills that need to get through. But sooner or later it will get to the full floor. Probably Bar Amity or Garo will offer it to the full floor. So I have this weekend to send my little personal emails to every member of the house, urging them that this bill is not necessary. If a library doesn't already have a card system in place that restricts juvenile cards to juvenile materials, unless a parent does some kind of override, we can get that in place. It won't be easy for some libraries. She suggests that we just put a dot on a card and maybe a sticker on a book. But it's a slippery slope. And sh and they're talking about it like everyone wants to keep sexually explicit books out the hands of children, so what could possibly be wrong with this? But they, in their own words, they've said this is all we can do for now. Not ban them, just not let you check them out. They, they said it with their words you don't have to move them, but that's not what's in the bill. They said with words you don't have to do a campaign, but that's not what's in the bill. They said with words that you don't have to worry too much about access to computers, but that's not what's in the bill. Because if a book is deemed sexually explicit through this process they've outlined. I have to also look for it in my digital library, and any child who sits at a public computer can get to the digital library with or without a card. So that means I have to restrict children from getting on public library computers my thousand public com library computers where the children can do their homework, get free prints. I will have to freeze all that. So I, I think librarian need to do a lot more work to say, Hey, we are doing this. So children can't check out gender queer unless their parent is with them and says, yeah, they can check out gender queer, but we don't need to do this bill because the bill also has some ramifications about if you don't do what we want, We're gonna jerk your funding, keep you from paying bills, deny you the right to have a new tax levy or millage and some other things that are probably illegal or not unconstitutional, but they're in the bill. And the authors of this bill think very highly of HB 25, which did not make it outta committee, but they may try to tack it back on which gives also a much loved bill by the attorney general's office. And that would allow anybody to look at a board member and say I don't like the way you voted. You're out.

Pepper Roussel: So let's start at the beginning. Yes, it is super scary watching this in real time, and there have been a lot of folks who have been, will say delicately comparing this moment and book burning, ban banning, sorry, not burning book, banning to to Nazi Germany. And so I want to step back from that and be a little bit more objective to understand what are these correlations, because that seems a little extreme if you're not calling people like rhon, DeSantis a fascist, or if you don't understand what those words actually mean. So help me unpack, how is it that we are saying that this is very much a Nazi state sort of thing to do?

Mary Stein: It's the slippery slope because it's like first you come for something that everybody can agree on. I agree. R rated movies don't belong in a children's groom and that's why they're not there. I agree that R rated movies shouldn't be checked out from children and that's why they can't check 'em out. So that seems perfectly reasonable. But what if it isn't an r-rated film or it's not a r-rated book and it has characters that don't look like me, that don't go to the same church, that don't have the nuclear family like me. And don't have the specific played out morality the same way my family does. And they're different already. 10 years ago I spent six months getting hate mail because we dared to have the Muslim Journey's Exhibition for 30 days at Carver, where it just talked about books that Islamic art, how dare we have that, and I was sent emails of beheadings every week by conservative, very concerned citizens who thought we were grooming and growing terrorism. So it's that same kind of fear reaction but you could tell. She didn't pick 50 Shades of gray. She didn't put any bestseller. And frankly, if you can find sex in many books. And as one of our board members said, this is just one passage. This is my finger. It's not my whole body. I would like to show a different finger, but I won't because we're nice. But I wanted to go, bless your heart when she said, put a sticker up, put a dot on my library card. It's like my book kiosk check. Self check won't read your dot. And they don't understand that here in Baton Rouge, if your card starts with a 2 1 6 5 9 the internet says, let 'em in. Digital library overdrive your sweet Libby. Let 'em in. All those books are there. And I would like to know how the pa, where are the parents when the children are on the internet without their. Without their knowledge. And we all said children aren't coming to the library without their parent. It's not allowed. They have to be at least nine. And are you telling me you don't pay attention to what your child is bringing into your house? They probably are. They actually did say when I dropped my kid off at the library and one of our library friends who was testifying said, libraries are not daycares. You should parent your child. But the slippery slope starts with they said, oh, it's for a local community standards. And the question was raised who gets to say those standards? Especially since you're not trusting the librarian and you already said you don't trust the board, which is a citizen board, which is representing the citizens. If they already in Lafayette and Livingston, board members got jerked because the police jury didn't like what they were doing. So the campaign, the national playbook is get in, find somebody in your local community start harassing them. Try to get board members to resign so that you can fill their seat and stack the board with ultra-conservative voices so that you can quit spending money on this trash. And whatever they don't like is this trash. And it all goes down to defending libraries. So we're not spending money to provide. Multiple points of view.

Pepper Roussel: We've got a question in the chat, which is a really important question. I think that pornography has long been identified or defined as I know it when I see it. Help me understand help me like Ross Perot.

Mary Stein: Yes. Pornography as Senator Cloud sees it and the Ag Office sees it is not the same as Supreme Court tested Miller versus California, or Ginsburg versus New York. There's a three part test. Is it salacious? Is it literary? Is it patently offensive? Now, Pepper, I'm gonna tell you right now, there are books in this library that I find patently offensive. I don't wanna read them. Most of them are in the horror section, but some of them have to do with graphic violence. There are some things I just don't care to read. I'm not interested in it, and some things I don't want to read, but I'm still gonna buy those books. And by the way, reading a book a thriller that features a serial killer doesn't turn me into one. Because they. Anyway. You're saying that, but we don't know. So yeah we don't know but has to do for us with what's age appropriate because children don't, at age 18 suddenly say like Aphrodite bringing full form from the mind of Zeus naked in a clam shell. But she better not be naked in these books because that's salacious. They are not automatically. All right, now I'm an adult. Now I can learn about sex. Now I can learn what is gender, what is identity. Now I can learn about history that's not just vanilla and sanitized. She also did want us to have a sanitized bible in the children's section. But anyway is her Bible, I'm sure. If it, for us, it has to do with age appropriate, because if your child has a question, that means they're old enough to get some information. So we try to have age appropriate books all along the way that either answer questions or let you walk a mile in somebody's shoes, who's different from you. And it's hard to be a parent. I know that we have a parenting section to help parents. My own. My own 11 year old grandson wanted to know where the new baby was coming from and we have books that show that. And he was like, interested up to a point and then he was done. And when he is 14, he questions and when and if he had been nine, he would've gone ugh. And then he would've gone out to play. It, the children mature at different rates. We have to have different kinds of books available at different time periods. And for us, the pro, one of the problems with this bill, besides the clarity of language or lack of it, is what's a teenager? If you're old enough to drive and have babies at Fort. You're driving at 15, you're working at 15, you're having babies at 14. I had all the statistics ready. It's it seems foolish to not let you have access by checking out the books that might help you deal with what's, what you're seeing or feeling or whatever. And so she changed her bill from Access to check out so they can still see them in the library. And that's where she said for now she kept saying, we're not banning them because the First Amendment won't let us.

Pepper Roussel: So the the next question is operationalizing the limitation of access to different types of books. What does this mean for sex education? What does this mean for health? What does this mean for even dealing with traumatic health issues? So think breast cancer or ovarian cancers, how. How do the libraries, how will the libraries go about ensuring that once the book is removed from the shelves, that it's still available or it just help me, what is this?

Mary Stein: Oh, she did walk back some of the wordings while it was still in the Senate. And even though her mouth said I'm not asking you to move the books. At first she did say, move them or remove them later on in, in Tuesday's, things out loud. She said nowhere in the bill does it tell you to move the book. And I'm like that's not the way we read it. But some libraries have already moved their teen books up to the adult section and so now their teens will be wandering around the adult section. Is that what you wanted? And originally she wanted us to put a sexually explicit label on the book. And I'm like that's a blue light special. All those books are gonna check out. That's going to, that's I'm my c is gonna go up. And, Some libraries operationally, they just don't have a library system. They just had cards. They may have had cute cards for children, but the cards just checked out things and there was no differentiation, no tiered connection between the age of the child represented on the card and the kinds of materials that they can check out. We do have that here. And I have a hundred thousand kids cards in Monkey. I don't know what they have. I can't speak for all of them. Not all. We don't all have the same computer systems. We absolutely don't even Have the same kind of looking up. Not all libraries have separate rooms. Most don't for children's versus teen versus adults. So we were struggling with that in the first rendition of the bill. And I was gonna I'm gonna have to move half the teen books into adults and I don't have space in the adult collection. I gotta reconfigure the whole dang library. And then I was gonna have to buy a hundred thousand new cards because first of all, she said you have to have this. And we kept saying is it opt in? Can this happen organically over time? And her words said that Tuesday, but it doesn't say that in the bill. And since they've already sent someone to arrest librarians checking out books to children further south, Ultimately when the law enforcement officer got there, St. Taney, they've just lost their minds. Pepper. I was just nuts. The law enforcement got there and looked at the thing and he said no I'm not, this isn't enough to check you out. Because someone tried to make a political statement and say here there at the library checking out porn to minors. And he looked and said, no, this doesn't meet the standard of the law. And so he did not arrest the librarian. And here, there are lawyers waiting and come on. If we're gonna make a political statement, I'm willing. But yes, Senator Cloud, she's absolutely convinced that this is the way to go and she absolutely is convinced based on things that were told to her or that she's. Understanding on purpose. She ab absolutely thinks that libraries are checking out porn to kids. And maybe there are some library somewhere that put a graphic novel without looking at it in the child's section, just cause it had a fun cover on it and didn't realize I don't know who that library would be. No one ever said, they just said some or it is been reported as like by whom? Cuz I wanna find them. We will help them. We have work to do as libraries. The state library sent out a survey Wednesday, telling the directors, because there's no boss, the library ferry, the Library of Congress, they're not the boss of us locally. Our bosses, our board, and our governmental entity. The state librarian has no direct power over us. And they just recently appointed. A state librarian. They've had some personnel shortages and issues for the last year also. And she sent out a survey Wednesday night and we're, we want the truth now because the ags office said, oh, we contacted every library. There were two directors behind me and said, nobody talked to me. And I know here, nobody called us, but they found our stuff on our policies on our website, and they complimented us. It's not gonna hurt us as much as it hurts other people, but it's a wedge issue. It's it drives toxicity. It creates us against. Them dynamic between our patrons here who are confused and they're being fed this malarkey that I'm checking out porn to kids. And again, where are you the parent in this conversation? Because the child did not drive themselves to the library and there's no porn in the children's room. Though I will help you with those parenting books, maybe everyone would benefit from reading the parenting books. Fair enough. But this also requires a fair bit of critical thinking that not everyone possesses, nor do they care to have. There was a question in the chat about how, what do we do?

Pepper Roussel: How do we address this? How do we fix it? What are we doing?

Mary Stein: So we have until next week to contact individual representatives and I'm gonna start emailing them from my private Gmail account Friday night, not using a library computer. Because giving them information I can do as a civil servant, but campaigning is not something that I can do as a civil servant from my civil servant device and using my civil servant email I have to be very careful. But I'm asking I'm sharing some information with with our staff, with our board. If nothing else, this is unnecessary legislation. And that's, will anybody read what I send? I'm just gonna make sure the subject line says, please vote no on SB seven and I'm just gonna have, it's unnecessary that we don't need this bill. It's a manufactured crisis. And and I'm just gonna keep that short and sweet. I was then maybe thinking about two days later, sending them something else that's maybe a different point. I don't know. W we have doubts about how much they actually read their emails, but their senate aid is supposed to at least make a tally. And that may or may not have, the l a association does have a little blurb on their website, which is l a online. Dang, I should have gotten that. Where they responded to it. So we don't have enough time. We don't understand the ramifications. We need more time. And frankly, if we had more time, I think we could make sure that all 67 libraries had policies in place that satisfied the spirit of this bill and without having to have this crappy bill with weird words and. Unclear things about how my students are gonna access computers, cuz it didn't occur to them that, that was part of this conversation. And then get that punitive stuff away from our board that's in the bill. I think we could do that. And by the next time they went into session even if this bill was passed and the governor vetoed it, which he had indicated that he might do, and if he heard from enough people, it's like in Peter Pan. If enough people think and clap or whatever maybe he would veto it. They would still come back next year. But if we could preempt that with a clear showing because the ags office just said things that weren't true and whoever made that report just said things that weren't, that were misleading or was a partial truth.

Pepper Roussel: The very real questions about how do we address how do we help, how do we support, is there a blurb that you have already prepared that you could send to us and we can push out to the coalition and they can share with their social media?

Mary Stein: Yes. I have the one from the Louisiana Library Association. I will say Star gave a beautiful position paper early on when this was first posted. And a hundred thousand women were there. We had wonderful supporters and Melissa Flournoy comments. I told her We want these in writing because they were so fabulous. But I will send that to you. I should a, I should have found that one and sent that to you last night.

Pepper Roussel: Do we know whether the Metro Council is willing to stand? Either way, one way or the other? Just stand.

Mary Stein: I have mentioned it privately as I speak to Metro Council members and they're like, It's somebody else's problem because we are okay here, so they're not too, but I said, I want you to know that we're not checking out porn to children. That was the first thing. We wanted the mayor and the c a o and our council members to know this is a manufactured crisis, but it's nothing. It's nothing to do with us, except it really does have something to do with us if it can be manipulated and then later morphed into something else. But on first blush, east Baton Rouge is already fairly compliant except for the computer access part, which I will have to do something about, and it will cost time and money and aggravation. But at least we don't need to be lobbying to them at this point. They were also perhaps not so in love with House Bill 25 as people fought. But who knows? There are the places like Livingston and Lafayette and St. Tammany were all for House Bill 25 because they wanted to be able to go off with their head and get board members. Who in Senator Cloud's word who did not vote? Who made the wrong decision? Yeah. If they made the wrong decisions, they should be removed.

Pepper Roussel: What, just because I am really all about burning things down. What if we were to fire with fire? What if they take one of ours, we take one of theirs and we just can't keep going back and forth until everyone is toothless and blind.

Mary Stein: Yeah. It's not the library way, but I am willing to be arrested. I have a lawyer ready to go, so we'll see. They won't come after us they're pick, it's a bully bill, so they're picking on places where they already have a vocal under underbelly ready to exploit. And Baton Rouge does have deep pockets of conservatism, but we also have deep pockets of moderation and then not conservatism. So I don't think they'd get very far here. I don't like being on the front page of the newspaper unless it's for something wonderful, like new hotspots coming in to check out. But in the summer reading starting next year, next week, but we'll do what needs to be done. I have nothing to lose.

Pepper Roussel: Don't underestimate how a picture of you being arrested and pulled outta the library might galvanize folk

Mary Stein: yeah, I would do it. My husband would die he doesn't read the paper that much. Maybe he'd never know.

Pepper Roussel: We were talking a minute ago about investing time and money. Has there been any sort of a dive e an exploration or saunter into whether there might be packs or special interest groups that are investing in this type of legislation

Mary Stein: moms for Liberty? Those are pushing the toxic forum the toxic narrative, and there's a few others, but locally it's Family Forum is the biggest one. And they also did several email pushes, which I happen to have seen and had said, these are in some of our children's areas. And it's lie. They had the titles wrong on several things. But I didn't respond to that because I didn't receive it personally. I was shown it, and I just looked at it and I'm like that just shows that they're cutting and pasting something and they're not even doing it well. There's a big difference between oh, they, they took a offense at anything about gender, anything with a L G B T Q lived experience and then they got the names wrong. Funhouse Fun home. What's the d It's the same. It's it is not the thing. And Anyway. Good enough.

Pepper Roussel: This is all about keeping children from checking porn out of the library. That's at the core of it. What are we calling children?

Mary Stein: That's what she says minors. And I said are your minors up to age 11 or 12? Because again, teenagers doing lots of stuff, including getting married getting arrested and tried as adults. So I had asked for clarity on that. And then what they're calling porn seems to be mostly gay sex. Maybe not, but that's just all the examples they picked. Funny how that was. So that's the second part of this. And then their third part is, That if you don't do what we want, we're gonna come after your boards and your funding.

Pepper Roussel: Okay. And so there's a question in the chat about the authors. Have any of the author authors, yes.

Mary Stein: Oh yes. Oh, Judy Bloom First at because Judy Bloom is often, and the ironic thing is this is the summer of your, are you there god, it's me, Margaret hitting a big screen, not just going straight to Netflix and Judy Bloom. Forever by Judy Bloom was often. And are you there god, it's me, Margaret often because how dare you talk about bodies and body parts. And so I showed the new statistics that girls are approaching puberty earlier and earlier, younger than 12, even nine and 10 years old, especially in brown and black communities. And but here's the thing that she dialed back on her wording. The book isn't sexually explicit as a label and thus for forbidden to anybody that doesn't have the unrestricted card until the adult has challenged the book and then the library staff have defended the book and kept the book. And then the patron goes to the full board and says, full board, look at this trash. Your librarians are letting through. Can't you do something about them? And only then if the full board says, oh yeah, we think it's sexually explicit, does it get the sticker? So we have to waste a lot of time going back and forth and our board's what you gonna make me read the Bible because how many months is gonna take them to read the every word in the Bible? Because according to some readings of the bill, you can't just look at that passage. You have to look at it in its totality. Again, this finger does not represent my whole body Only then does the restriction kick in. So it's a lot of background for nothing. We kept saying, just make us be age appropriate. We can do that

Pepper Roussel: well. So there's a moment in the process where there's a challenge, but then there's a response from the library. And just being obstinate as I have been since my childhood. What if you just don't respond?

Mary Stein: We do respond, but I don't have to respond in one day because I give a thoughtful response. We pull the book, we look at it, we look at the packaging of the book, because you judge your book by its cover. We look at the reviews. I'll read the book if I have to. If it's a graphic novel, I'll look at the pages. If there's two pages of sex, and the rest of it is Troy, I kept the book. I had one certain demigod having sex with another person in Troy in the nineties. Y'all in the nineties never once complained. But then we write a very thoughtful letter, and it's not a up yours letter. It's thoughtful because we thank the parent for paying attention and we suggest other books that might better suit their family's values or whatever on this topic or whatever. And then I mail that letter to them and only then, and it's never ever happened. It's never happened. They can then say we don't, like what Mary said. They go to the director. Now, right now we don't have a director, but the interim director would serve in that thing. And if they didn't like what she answered, and I don't have to do that next step, you remember, I'm. In St. Tammany, there've been over 200 requests. They're doing them a few at a time. Now in St. Tammany, they pulled every copy of that book off the shelf while they're, while it was being in review. I have never done that. I just need one copy to look at. I don't need the rest of 'em pulled off the shelf. And then they would ask to be on the board agenda and then the board would have to look at the book. That takes time too. So it's a ridiculous process. Just let us do our job and buy age appropriate books, and if there's some librarian or library staff member in some librarian Louisiana that made a mistake and put sexually explicit books in their children's room, I would like to know who they are and we will help them. Because that's what we do. We like to help people. And that's one of the reasons that I still enjoy libraries because it's one of the, if not the last place that you can go spend hours upon hours. There's never the expectation that you will spend money. And there's also not an expectation that you don't belong. So the the default is to be helped to be, to get some level of assistance from the people who are actually working there and who know. And in fact like I said librarians are badass, man. Badass. All right. Yeah, the, this last series of questions or this last thread about what are the good books, right? So very much the same way as I would go and counter absolutely. Every challenge that they had to my, represent my board people. I would also start pulling every book that, that they really enjoyed. But that's just me. I'd challenge them all because this is who I am at my core, but it feels like that's not the librarian way. Tell me, what can we do in order to understand you? What are the books that the conservatives find good? What are these books that they are reading that also should be banned based on the same criteria? Ah 50 Shades of Gray. Let's just start right there. Marketing is one thing, classics or another. We do have I do have there's a book club in town that called me and said, oh, Mary, we wanna read these books. What are these band books? We wanna see what the fuss is. And so I share them a list of some of the books that have been challenged, and some of them are ridiculous books to challenge. They're always, there's somebody always gonna challenge us for a witchcraft and Harry Potter. There's somebody always challenging us for language. And Mark Twain. There's somebody always challenging in general for difficult topics like date rate. How dare you have a book for teens in which the girl is mute because she was raped and can't talk about it. It's it happens. This is a lived experience. I'm gonna keep that book. Just don't check it out. I'll find you a princess book. And though those have dark, they're dark Princess bookshop now you gotta watch out. I can find you a sweet princess book that's happily ever after. We try to be proactive and figure out where you're headed and if all you need is a great adventure book, hatchet your name or this great book about the Civil War instead of the road badge of courage, or maybe you want a thriller. We have them for every age level. So it's our job to be a, do a better job at serving up the content that's appropriate for whatever value that is. But there are some hot and steamy books out there, and it's. It's just if they don't feature l g LGBTQ characters, apparently they don't get on the list

Pepper Roussel: But fairytales are notoriously dark. Yeah. Has changed the idea or the concept of fairytales, especially Grims fairytales. But who am I? All right we are coming up on the top of the hour. I wanna make sure that since I know it's a long weekend, we don't keep you terribly long. Does any please let me know if you wanna come off mute and ask a question, make a comment. Fine. With that, we have one final question over here from Patricia's iPhone. Hey, pat Lada. How can we help? There was a suggestion that we do a a library rally at the capitol snagging some of the signs that are on the library grounds. I have more. How can we help?

Mary Stein: Put up those signs but just e email representatives and then use your library because the best way for us to show, oh, she also said that nobody goes to the library anymore. She is use your library so that I can then go to the Metro council saying, you know what? The library's a live and here and your constituents are using the library. That's the absolute best thing that you can do. And then our taxes coming up in 2025, we're gonna start, our friends group is gonna need some help having a little pack. Because I do that work after hours and send emails at three in the morning so that the hands are separate. Pray for us that we can get a new director. That'd be good. That would be very helpful. And I have plenty more of those yard signs at every branch if you want one. All right. Okay.

Pepper Roussel: Do we have anybody who wants to come off mute? Ask a question, make comments. What are the chances that we could actually have a live book read filibuster? I am asking because I don't know, but I would begin with David copperfield Field.

Mary Stein: We did a live read for her Twist. And the thing about Dickens is it's suitable for live reads. They're episodic. And each chapter was that week's that week's sellable broadsheet. And they were perfect for reading out loud on the stoop because one person would buy it and they would share it. Be like a radio show one thing at a time.

Manny Patole: No, I was gonna say the power broker, if you really wanna have people read and listen and you'll kill you, you take care of a couple of birds with that stone

Rev. Anderson: First of all, let me say I'm just an unapologetic fan of Mary Stein, that is just a killer librarian. But I did wanna say, at the end of the day, if we decide to do something like a rally at the Capitol, it has to also be attached to a voter engagement voter because Mary's too polite to say it. The same man who's bringing this whole campaign is also running for governor. And if you don't like the picture today, We just gotta be honest about it. We gotta start voting certain folk in and voting certain folk out. And the sheer fact that people aren't connecting the dots that East Baton Rouge doesn't have that many things that are number one in a good way. But our library system is second to none. And I don't think people understand in a community where we just released the ALICE report, where we're getting ready to release the numbers on the point in time homeless report. Where we just got the numbers for the McKinney veto homeless children in this parish and in this state. The library is one of the few places where those families can thrive. And I don't just mean that for E B R cuz we have a standout library system. I mean that for Alan Parish and Wynn Parish. And I think that's what people sometimes forget here, while we have a second to non-library system and a lot of these parishes, that's it. The library really is the only place those families can go and thrive. And so I'm just saying even if we do something, we just have to not be shortsighted about what we're trying to do. So that's my input. And also to, to my friend and who I yell at everybody about messing with the library's money cuz I don't believe in that.

Mary Stein: St. Tammany got like a, not a pack, but they got a private nonprofit ground swept the. There are some citizens who use the library who are just like Reverend Anderson. They are change agents, and they started a website, they've raised money, they have a template, and I think it's this St. Tammany Citizens for Library Alliance or something like that. I will email that to you. I have so many papers now that I don't even know where stuff is, but they have a template and they have the, everything right there on their website. And two of those women spoke at the house committee. And I'm just, I love them. I love them. I want to be related to them. So there we go. Manny's putting some things up, but it's the St. Tammany Alliance. And if I tried to go to the internet right now, I'd probably kill the Zoom, but I I will email that to you or maybe I can find it on my phone. How about that?

Generally speaking. Just I think that's probably true reading things Here we are. I like the idea of it. So I think for those who are interested in making sure what, interested in making sure that you have the autonomy to go to the library and pick out what it is that you want to read for yourself and your children.

Pepper Roussel: Who are considered minors under the age of 18. I could read to my legislator, but she's, anyway the short version, long story is there are bills that are on the house going to the house floor, and they threaten the, or they challenge what is seen as pornographic, what is seen offensive and trying to do a public good.

Manny Patole: Yeah, so I, I wanted to connect what Mary was saying with what Veneeth was mentioning earlier. It is a very slippery slope from the libraries to books. It's an even faster highway from the books to the internet as a person who's worked in the Middle East and in places in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where a lot of internet censorship is there. And it's also a place where a lot of kids, to your point of reading or getting pornography, it's also where a lot of people get their work and entertainment from as well. And you can already start seeing how certain things are throttled or decelerated in terms of when you're accessing certain websites. But think about how this will be a precursor to banning the internet. Keep this in mind, and when you're doing that comment on that bead document too, make sure you're putting in there, where is the equity for preventing the access to academic materials? Because that is, if you're not seeing the what's ahead, if you're seeing this idea of how some libraries in certain places are providing digital access to other people throughout the country and the world for that matter, you start preventing people from getting access to those books, it will then extend into the digital realm as well. So keep that in mind and think about you may only think about the worst case scenario in, in the analog form, but think about how that goes into the digital form as well as it is

Pepper Roussel: just the beginning. And just as an f y I, I feel compelled to say this, even though I know you already know it, but people don't pass laws just to address a one thing. It's, there's always a multifaceted reason to change a law, right? So the way that we operate and we function in community with each other. All of that said, I will put away my soapbox and thank you Mary Stein for being here on this fine Friday morning. Again I know it's a long weekend. I don't wanna keep you here too terribly long. We'll ask for some community announcements and then if Mary's got time and one, stay and answer any more questions or just chat about the horrors that are going on in Baton Rouge these days, happy to stick around.

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