Cities are not prepared to replace local library boards

To the editor:

Iowans before us understood why the legal liabilities and complex policies inherent to library (First Amendment) services require specific and robust management to successfully steward collections, programs, and spaces which are openly and freely used by the public.

Senate Study Bill 3131 transfers oversight, power, and property of public library boards to their cities. Our cities are not prepared neither will they be additionally resourced to tackle the work of over 500 public library boards around the state.

Iowans before us recognized how robust libraries contribute to the economic development, entrepreneurial success, civic engagement, and life satisfaction of millions every day. They valued literacy and learning and therefore structured secured funding and focused oversight through appointed boards in Iowa code which are both jeopardized by SSB 3131.

As they say in chess, we are at end game. If SSB 3131 passes, Iowa libraries will close. Iowa communities are not prepared for the fallout. Those who register or vote in favor of this bill know this tragic reality.

Eighty-five years ago, Iowan Forrest Spaulding wrote the Library Bill of Rights when he was the Director of the Des Moines Public Library. His work has since become an international standard of free people reading freely. Iowa’s legacy of information access and how libraries provide fundamental human rights should be carefully examined by proponents of SSB 3131. In 2023, Iowa faced the second most library-adverse bills in the nation. It’s time to let the people of Iowa manage their own libraries.

Sam Helmick

Iowa City

2019 Iowa Governor’s Commission of Libraries chair

2022 Iowa Library Association vice president

2022-2025 American Library Association Executive Board member

2023 Iowa Library Association president-elect

2023 Iowa Library Association president

2024 Iowa Library Association Government Affairs committee chair

2024 American Library Association presidential candidate


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