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Central Arkansas Library System's board authorizes legal challenge to library materials law

by Joe Flaherty | May 25, 2023 at 1:36 p.m.
FILE — The main branch of the Central Arkansas Library System in Little Rock is shown in this 2020 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

The Central Arkansas Library System's board of directors at a meeting Thursday voted to authorize a lawsuit in federal court challenging elements of Act 372, a new state law that exposes library personnel to criminal penalties and allows decisions regarding the appropriateness of items held in the collection to be appealed to local elected officials. 

The law is scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, barring a judicial hold. 

The legislation establishes a new Class A misdemeanor of furnishing a harmful item to a minor and removes language shielding employees of schools and public libraries from prosecution for disseminating material claimed to be obscene.

Additionally, it sets new processes for citizens to challenge the appropriateness of material held in school or public libraries.

A successful challenge could result in an item being relocated to an area inaccessible to minors, and individuals could appeal a decision not to relocate an item to the local school board, quorum court or city council.

The law also allows libraries to disclose confidential library records to the parents or legal guardians of patrons under 18. 

The library system's lawsuit is expected to challenge the constitutionality of the two sections of the law that establish the new Class A misdemeanor and the challenge procedure pertaining to public libraries, according to John Adams, an attorney representing the library system who addressed board members Thursday. 

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more details. 


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