How can I be a library advocate?

Being a good library advocate is vitally important as issues and challenges are brought to your attention, and we must find ways to deliver library messages to legislators, the media, and public officials who shape public opinion and control support for library services.

Book Challenges in Idaho Libraries

Here are three files with historical information on materials challenges in Idaho Libraries.

Idaho Book Challenges 2003-2022

Titles Challenged in Idaho 2022

Titles Challenged in Idaho 2023

Report a Challenge or Request Support

If you hear of a challenge in your community, please share it by using this form so we can begin the work to find out how to help.

We encourage you to use this form to also request support concerning material challenges, election challenges, threatening rhetoric or bigotry at board meetings, or other issues that you identify. Requests for support will be answered as quickly as possible and will be handled in confidence. We will not share information with anyone without your permission.

House Bill 710 and the Miller Test

How the Miller Test works

Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973) - Supreme Court. Speech that is obscene and thus lacking First Amendment protection must be 1) without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. It also must 2) appeal to the prurient interest in the view of an average person according to community standards, and 3) it must describe sexual conduct or excretory functions in a patently offensive way. All three prongs must be met. The prurient interest and patently offensive prongs are judged by the local community standard; the value prong is a nationwide standard.

Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. 629 (1968)The Court ruled that material that is not obscene for adults may nonetheless be harmful for children. However, considerations must be given to the serious artistic, literary, scientific, or political value of a work. This is why most states have an “obscenity for minors” law which adds the terminology “to minors” or some version of that term to the Miller test. Notably, the material cited as harmful must be viewed from the perspective of the oldest of minors (age 17), and the average minor (not the least nor most sensitive).

The Miller Test in Idaho Code and Bill 710

The Miller Test is imperfectly written in current Idaho code. The code was completed in the 1970s, directly following the Miller decision, and it is evident that it was not implemented well. Current code states that materials "harmful to minors" are defined as any material including nudity and sexual content when it: 

a) appeals to the prurient interest of minors, as judged by the average person applying contemporary community standards; and 

b) depicts or describes nudity or sexual content in a patently offensive manner according to prevailing standards in the adult community as to what is suitable for minors, including descriptions or representations of: 

1) intimate sexual acts, or 

2) masturbation or other lewd functions of the genital area. 

Those two points (a and b) are the first two prongs of the Miller Test. The third prong, and the most important, is the prong of value. It IS actually in the code, but it is buried under b.2 after "masturbation" etc., looking roughly like this - 

a) appeals to the prurient interest of minors, as judged by the average person applying contemporary community standards; and 

b) depicts or describes nudity or sexual content in a patently offensive manner according to prevailing standards in the adult community as to what is suitable for minors, including descriptions or representations of: 

    1) intimate sexual acts, or

    2) masturbation or other lewd functions of the genital area. Nothing herein is    intended to include or proscribe any matter which, when considered as a whole, and in context, possesses serious literary, scientific, artistic, or political value for minors. 

The problem is that this is directly after "masturbation" and, as written, could be taken to apply only to b.2. Also, after b.1, there is the pesky word "OR" meaning you could technically ignore b.2 altogether.  If this bill passed, it could be argued that the code is unconstitutional - it would be up to a judge to decide whether they believed the statement of value applied to the entire test, or just to b.1. 

Maybe? Maybe not?

  • Legislators have stated they have “seen” materials that are obscene for minors according to the Miller Test. They have NOT shared the titles of these books, nor have they followed the approved library processes for requesting these materials be moved. Why not?
In other states, some of the most prominent titles that have been challenged in Idaho have been judged not obscene for minors according to the Miller Test (Weston County Attorney’s Office, Re: Campbell County Public Library Report, 2021 (for Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy, Doing It!: Let's Talk About Sex, Sex Is a Funny Word, and How Do You Make a Baby?); Circuit Court for the City of Virginia Beach, Case No. CL22-1985, 2022 (for Gender Queer and A Court of Mist and Fury)

ALERT! Hearing on House Bill 384 on Monday, January 15 at 9:00 AM. Take Action!

Here's How ----> NO on House Bill 384

Libraries and Legislation

Efforts to censor material in libraries are on the rise in Idaho and around the country. These efforts seek to limit the viewpoints available to minors by suppressing and erasing already marginalized voices. They are not supported by a majority of voters. 

Idaho libraries do not carry porn and independent studies show that children do not access porn in libraries.  Censorship laws proposed in recent years do not address an actual problem that exists in our libraries but are intended to create a chilling effect that will cause libraries to remove materials that some find objectionable in order to avoid the threat of costly litigation.  

Most of the materials targeted for censorship are authored by or contain characters that are LGBTQ+ or people of color. Proponents of censorship know that they cannot succeed in having these materials removed on this basis, so they attempt to label the materials as "pornography," "obscenity," or "material harmful to minors." 

Many of these proposed laws are designed to suppress and erase already marginalized voices, particularly LGBTQ+ and people of color.  

Advocacy Tips

When library issues arise in public policy debates, advocates should be ready to reach out to their public officials and share your expectation they will protect our libraries and our rights! 

  1. Know your audience. Research positions of elected officials in advance. Understand what they care about and consider how your request aligns with their positions. Be ready to speak on your issue using language that appeals to them. Find your legislator here:

  2. Do your homework. Gain an understanding of the specific issue and how best to frame your message. Use the above language or speak to your local librarian for more information.

  3. Contact elected officials personally if possible. A meeting is better than a phone call, a phone call is better than a letter or email, and a letter or email is better than not connecting.

    What should you say?

    1. Always start with a thank you. Find something the elected official has recently supported which has a positive community impact and thank them for that, or thank them for taking the time to listen to your concerns. 

    2. Keep it brief. Share the most important facts and the few best arguments. Talking points include:

      1. Parents have the right and responsibility to guide their children’s reading, but individuals should not be making decisions for other readers or other parents’ children. 

      2. The First Amendment protects access to information and the right to read.  

      3. The legislature cannot prohibit or restrict access to information just because they don’t like the message conveyed. 

      4. The legislature cannot dictate what people can or cannot read.  

      5. Libraries include materials in their collections that meet the needs of ALL people in their community. What is right for some may not be appropriate for others. 

      6. Books are tools for understanding complex issues. Books on controversial or challenging topics create opportunities for growth and learning and help youth critically navigate their world.  

      7. Librarians are professionals who take their job and responsibilities seriously. They are trained to not impose their own thoughts and opinions on which ideas are right, but to make knowledge and ideas available so that everyone has the freedom to choose what to read and the ability to form their own opinions. 

    3. Make it personal. Explain how the issue impacts you and your family/friends.

    4. Make a clear request. Ask them to specifically SUPPORT or OPPOSE legislation, for help to change the legislation, or invite them to attend an event to learn more about a particular issue. 

    5. Be polite, but direct, and try to get a commitment to support your position. 

    6. Follow up. Once the issue is resolved, make sure to thank those who supported libraries, and commit to reconnecting with those who did not.

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