Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2024 Issue

Legislation Proposed that Can Make Librarians Felons

Judge Shakespeare decides whether his writings are felonious.

The obscenity police are on the prowl again. This time, it's school librarians and teachers they have in their sights. A bill has been introduced to the Ohio legislature to turn pornography promoting school librarians into felons. Apparently, this must be a problem with school librarians in Ohio, although the state does not have a reputation as a hotbed for such strange practices. Why else would a state legislator see a need to introduce a bill titled “To amend sections 2907.32 and 2907.35 of the Revised Code to create criminal liability for certain teachers and librarians for the offense of pandering obscenity.”


The author of this apparently needed piece of legislation to control the obscenity-promoting school librarians and teachers of Ohio is Rep. Adam Mathews. Naturally, “obscenity” is hard to define. Mathews indicated this is not a problem because Ohio law already defines “obscenity,” but that definition is typically vague. It defines material as obscene if it appeals to “prurient interests,” is patently offensive, and as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Of course, that is all subjective so it is hard for a librarian to make that determination. However, they better not make a wrong call or they could end up being a felon.


Rep. Mathews said that the legislation set a high bar to books being classified as obscene, reassuring that Shakespeare and The Scarlet Letter would not be banned. However, nothing in the legislation prevents those books, or any others, from being banned if some authority decides they appeal to “prurient interests.” Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro was less sanguine about the effects of this bill. According to NBC4 Columbus, he said he was “appalled” by the bill, questioning whether teachers would want to stay in the profession with the potential for criminal prosecution “with a fuzzy definition of what would constitute a crime.” In a hopeful sign to those opposed to censorship, Gov. Mike DeWine indicated that book bans are generally dealt with by parents at a local level, rather than state legislation.


Is this really a problem? Are Ohio school librarians really filling their shelves with pornography, with the approval of local officials? This looks like a fake issue, a politician using what sounds like a motherhood and apple pie cause to burnish his reputation, with little concern as to what impact it might have on their constituents' basic freedoms to read, speak, teach and learn. Legislators should not be messing with First Amendment freedoms without a compelling reason, and creating fake issues to embellish your image is not a compelling reason. I'd rather see librarians writing legislation than politicians choosing books for libraries. I trust their motivation and ethics more.

Posted On: 2024-07-01 17:04
User Name: dhiebert645

If one peruses the titles that have prompted such legislative responses, the titles are so far over the line that they are not in vague, subjective territory. The books are so bad, both textually and graphically, that school boards have forbidden angry parents from displaying or reading portions of them at school board meetings, sometimes claiming that they are afraid of running afoul of broadcast decency legislation for meetings that are broadcast. This, of course, raises the question as to why are such titles are deemed acceptable for children to read if the the school board, itself, recognizes that the titles are too offensive to be read in an adult venue.

There is an ideological push by an activist minority who are trying to obliterate any lines, standards, or boundaries and parents are very upset by what they find is being presented to their children.

No doubt, any legislative response to such extremes is going to raises questions about material that is much nearer the fuzzy line. But "freedom of speech" and the lack of clear black and white is being exploited by this activist minority to go full extreme without limit.

John Adams said, "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." His claim is abruptly being put to the test.

Posted On: 2024-07-02 11:04
User Name: imsimj

The comment refering to an ideological push by an activist minority appears to be correct- but applies to the activists such as dhiebert645 who seek to ban books.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.
  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions