New law is impacting access to online material for minors at Mississippi’s public libraries

Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 9:51 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -If you take your child to the public library to work on school projects, things are changing for what they can access. A law intended to be a roadblock to online pornography is having some unintended consequences.

”The bill means to limit or restrict pornographic and obscene material, but it is written very broadly,” described Tracy Carr, Deputy Director of Library Services at the Mississippi Library Commission. “And so broad, in fact, that it’s affecting Libraries’ ability to provide databases and e-books and e-audiobooks to their patrons.”

You may not have realized that there were already some safeguards in place before this law.

“We must comply with the child internet Protection Act known as CIPA,” explained Katrina Stokes, Director of Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library. “And to do that, we must have web filtering in place. Now, filters are not perfect. Things can slip by.”

The Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library had a policy that children under a certain age couldn’t get on computers unless their parent was sitting alongside them. Now, if the database wasn’t strictly for children, they’ve had to “completely block their access to it.”

The Mississippi Library Commission says school libraries have Magnolia databases that are heavily filtered. But there are other online resources that libraries have had to restrict since July 1. And that includes items that you might assume would still be accessible.

“Not every public library would have something a database that has anything sexually oriented in it, but that includes health information as well, that there’s no exemption for health or art or anything like that,” noted Carr.

And there’s been a broader consequence.

“We had a policy to where anyone aged 16 and older who had a government-issued photo ID could obtain a library card register for one without a parent’s signature,” said Stokes. “Well, we had to raise that to 18. Going forward, just to comply with the law. Otherwise, the library card would have given them access to those materials online.”

The law took effect on July 1.

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