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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Take The Kids to the Library (While You Still Can!)

It boggles the mind: here we are less than 2 weeks away from the February 10th implementation of the CPSIA, and libraries still don't know whether or not they will be able to continue serving children 12 and under. Common sense (and the interpretation of the ALA) concludes that children's books should not be subject to the testing requirements of the CPSIA.

Surely the folks who put together this legislation didn't intend to shut down children's libraries, right? Too bad they wrote the law in such a sweeping manner that it may do exactly that.

I've always been a fan of libraries. I'm a book lover, so it goes almost without saying! Now that I have kids, I am even more passionate about the public library system. Every time I go in with the kids and come out with an armload of books -- for free! -- I am filled with gratitude. (OK, except for that one time that BB ended up wrenching her elbow in the library parking lot because I was carrying too many books while trying to hold hands with both kids; driving to the ER with a wailing child, I have to say I wasn't feeling all that grateful for the public library system. But I digress.) The mere existence of our public libraries says something wonderful about our country and our culture. And their focus on kids and families is truly extraordinary: the children's areas in the local libraries are just lovely. It makes a mama proud.

And makes me furious to think that legislators would be careless enough to put all this in jeopardy. If they had been careful and thoughtful when they wrote the CPSIA in the first place, so much heartache could have been prevented (don't even get me started on the effects it might have on handmade goods or thrift stores!) but NO. Now it's up to the CPSC to deal with this mess.

Thankfully, librarians are a pretty tough crowd and have the organizational power to fight back. The ALA has been marshalling its forces, protesting the law through the official channels, and calling for congressional support. Just yesterday Congressman Chris Lee from New York called for a meeting with the CPSC to try to get this all taken care of.

But as of now, as far as I know, nothing has officially changed. The CPSC says they hope to have a ruling next week (golly, just a week before the law goes into effect!) and they are currently telling libraries to take a "wait and see" approach. But that ruling has not yet been made.

"Under the current opinion issued by the General Counsel of the CPSC, the law would apply to books for children under the age of 12; therefore, public, school, academic and museum libraries would be required to either remove all their children’s books or ban all children under 12 from visiting the facilities as of February 10." (Quoted from the ALA District Dispatch.)

So I'm taking the kids to the library while I still can -- and praying that the lobbying of the ALA will have enough of an effect (and soon enough) to avert this disaster. I just can't imagine having to explain to my kids that they aren't allowed to go to the library, aren't allowed to check out any more of their beloved books.

What can we do about this? Right now, the ALA suggests: Please call the Acting Commissioner, Nancy Nord, at (301) 504-7901. When you call this number, wait for the automated directory to give you directions to reach Nancy Nord’s office. Explain to the Commission that it is simply impossible for libraries to remove all children’s books from the shelves and/or ban children under 12 from the library and still provide the level of service that is needed.

And while you're at it, you can tell her the law shouldn't apply to handmade goods, either!

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