(NEW YORK)— Mississippi has begun implementing a newly chaptered law governing what materials are allowed in public and school libraries. House BIll 1315 prohibits libraries from contracting with electronic vendors – such as e-book borrowing companies and research databases – that provide “inappropriate materials depicting or dealing with matters of sex, cruelty and violence in a manner likely to be injurious or harmful to a child.” To comply with the law, some libraries have reportedly raised the minimum age for receiving a library card to 18 and others have reportedly stopped providing access to e-books to minors.

In response, Jonathan Friedman, director of Free Expression and Education at PEN America, released the following statement:

“This new law follows a pattern of efforts across the country to stretch the definition of obscenity to intimidate librarians and private vendors, and to deny people access to books.  The law’s language is impossibly vague, including the phrase “depicting or dealing with matters of sex, cruelty and violence.” This has left libraries little choice but to restrict young people’s access to books altogether in order to maintain funding. Existing law already prohibits obscene material from being distributed to minors, and it’s unclear why this new law was necessary, if not to effect this kind of censorship. It is shameful that legislators would allow the children of Mississippi to go without library or e-book access to solve a problem that does not exist.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057