Northwest Iowa public library wrestling with removing books because it’s tied to a school

Tirzah Price, the library director, says some books contain age appropriate depictions of sex,...
Tirzah Price, the library director, says some books contain age appropriate depictions of sex, which would likely be banned under the new law.(KTIV)
Published: Jul. 3, 2023 at 5:42 PM CDT
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ALTA, Iowa (KTIV) - A new law in Iowa is meant to protect school children from accessing age-inappropriate books, by placing limits on school libraries. Now, the law is impacting some of the state’s public libraries that share resources with schools.

Library Director Tirzah Price said the Alta-Aurelia School District now has to comply with a law banning books that depict sex and books that aren’t “age appropriate.” But that will be a tall task because the school shares a library with the public, who still want to access those materials. Now, the library may need to psychically separate the “school side” from the “public side.”

Or, in a worst-case scenario, the school district could boot the library from the building.

“We aren’t going to limit our patrons, and we’re not going to remove books, just because all of a sudden, the school can’t have them on the shelf,” said Price.

Back in the early 2000s, Price said the city paid for a portion of the library to be built. Now they occupy the space rent-free, but the school has equal access.

School and city library materials, including furniture, electronics and books, are all intermingled.

Think of it like this, the school board could vote and say a book that talks about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War Two is not age appropriate. If they make that finding, the book would not be eligible for checkout for students during school hours. But the very same students could come back during the library’s public open hours and check out this very same book.

“I’m standing in front of the young adult section, there are a lot of books on here, I’m certain that there are some that contain age-appropriate depictions of sex. But you know, I’m not going to remove them from my patrons, but the school can’t have kids checking them out,” said Price.

Library and school officials will continue to hold meetings to chart a path forward, and no decisions have been made. The school must be in compliance with the new law by Jan. 1.

Price said the school district could end the city library’s lease in the building, but the district would owe the city about $30,000 if it ended the lease before the end of 2024.

Ultimately, the Alta-Aurelia School Board will make the final call. Its next meeting is set for Monday, July 3.