JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – There are now official guidelines for how schools can remove certain books from library shelves.
Tennessee passed the ‘Age-Appropriate Materials Act’ early last year. This requires a standardized review framework to ensure school library collections are routinely evaluated for age-appropriateness.
The Tennessee Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission handed down its official guidance for school libraries earlier this week.
Johnson City Schools Director of Secondary and Instructional Technology Dr. David Timbs said that they were ahead of the curve to develop a comprehensive plan regarding books in the district’s schools.
Timbs said that they started to develop that plan shortly after the legislation was passed last year. He said that the guidelines passed down this week are simply an easier form to understand compared to long-winded legislation.
One notable change that these guidelines present is that librarians are no longer in control of the materials on the shelves. That’s now decided by a selection committee.
These committees can include a librarian, which is the case for Johnson City Schools. Timbs said those committees were created months ago.
“The librarians have selection committees that are made up of parents, and there are several teachers on the committee,” Timbs said. “We asked our librarians to actually include students on their selection committees.”
These guidelines will impact all books in a school building, which include those in a teacher’s personal collection in their classroom. Anything that can be used for instruction, such as books, films and magazines, all fall under the committees’ decisions.
Timbs said all books in the library or a teacher’s classroom can be searched online.
“It’s going to be an extremely rare circumstance, if ever, that they have books in their classroom libraries that would not also be in the main library in the school,” Timbs said.
Timbs said that inquiries or questions about learning materials are nothing new. If a parent has concerns, they can reach out online. He said that they haven’t had to pull any books off the shelves.
“We’ve had a couple of questions about specific titles of books,” Timbs said. “None of those books that we’ve had a question about are available in any of our school libraries.”
The Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill that would allow book publishers to be sued for knowingly selling ‘obscene’ books to schools. That bill now awaits action from Governor Bill Lee.