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. 

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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.

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Small Libraries, Big Changes

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

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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. 

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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. 

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

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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

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

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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.

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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

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

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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

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

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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