Fury Grows as Idaho Libraries Ban Children and Require ID for Visitors Under 30

By: Georgia | Published: Jul 08, 2024

Idaho’s public libraries are causing a stir with a new rule that bans kids from entering. This drastic step comes after conservative lawmakers passed a law targeting “obscene” books. 

Now, libraries must either isolate these books or face legal actions from parents.

New ID Policy

Idaho libraries now require under-30s to show ID, sparking an online backlash. 

A cozy teen section in a library with computers on desks, bookshelves filled with young adult books, and a colorful "Happy Halloween" banner across the doorway

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Comparisons are being drawn to restrictive abortion laws, with pointed remarks about the contradictory treatment of young people in Idaho.


Small Libraries, Big Changes

The Donnelly Public Library, due to its small size, has gone completely adults-only. 

Two children in a library, one standing on a chair, reaching for a book on a high shelf, while the other sits reading on a chair nearby

Source: Donnelly Public Library/Facebook

They’ve even implemented rules where kids can’t use the bathroom without a parental escort, showing how deeply these new laws affect everyday life.

"No Kids Allowed" Signs Pop Up

At the Idaho Falls Public Library, a stark stop sign greets young visitors, informing them of the new rules. 

Daytime view of the Idaho Falls Public Library building with the American flag and a water tower in the background, framed by trees and a lawn

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These measures include having an unrestricted library card or a parental affidavit for each visit, emphasizing the library’s strict entry policy.

Financial and Legal Risks Too Great

Many libraries, unable to afford legal risks or create adult-only areas, opted to ban kids entirely. 

A close-up view of a section of library bookshelves filled with an array of books in various sizes and colors

Source: Jamie Taylor/Unsplash

This decision aims to protect the library staff and funds but at a significant cost to community access and educational resources.

Legislative Impact on Library Operations

Representative Megan Egbert highlighted the operational challenges, particularly for small, often volunteer-run libraries. 

A comfortable reading area in a library featuring two armchairs, bookshelves packed with books

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The new law demands vigilant monitoring of book access, a near-impossible task for these smaller institutions.


High Stakes for Non-compliance

The new legislation not only threatens libraries with lawsuits but also puts uncapped damages on the table. 

A library interior under a wooden beamed ceiling, featuring rows of dark brown bookshelves filled with books, with a tiled floor

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Originally, fines could have reached $2,500 per incident, but even with reductions, the financial risks remain a looming threat.


Governor's Reluctant Approval

Governor Brad Little was initially against the harsh penalties of the law, which he feared could lead to widespread library closures. 

A headshot of a smiling middle-aged white man wearing a suit, presenting a professional and friendly demeanor

Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, after legislative revisions, he signed the bill into law, albeit reluctantly, expressing his frustration openly.


A Broad Attack on Free Speech

Critics argue that the law’s vague definitions could extend to banning books with benign LGBTQ themes. 

A protest sign reading "STOP BANNING BOOKS" with a large red handprint and bold blue letters, held up against a blurred crowd background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This vague criterion has stirred significant opposition, with claims it infringes on free speech and parental rights.


Nationwide Rise in Book Bans

The controversy in Idaho reflects a broader national trend where books discussing gender identity and race face increasing scrutiny. 

A display table in a library setting, labeled "Banned" with books and caution tape, highlighting various famous books that have faced censorship

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These books, and by extension the communities they represent, are under attack, sparking a defense of these narratives.


Record-High Book Censorship

2023 saw a record number of books challenged in libraries, the highest in over two decades. 

A densely packed bookshelf in a library with a mix of old and new books, showing worn and well-used spines of varying colors and sizes

Source: Olena Bohovyk/Unsplash

Titles like “Gender Queer” topped the list of disputed books, indicating a significant uptick in censorship efforts within educational resources.


Public Protests and Political Reactions

As the law took effect, protests erupted outside libraries across Idaho. 

A young girl with her hair in a bun, reaching for a book on a high shelf filled with a diverse collection of modern titles in a bright

Source: Suad Kamardeen/Unsplash

Politicians and public figures voiced their concerns about the damaging effects of such laws on community trusts and the autonomy of libraries, emphasizing the ongoing struggle for intellectual freedom.