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What books can kids borrow at the library? New rules coming in Hillsborough.

Expanded parental controls for 30,000 library card-holders younger than 17 will start after Jan. 1.
 
Hillsborough County library officials will put new parental controls in place in early 2024 that cover the materials 30,000 children and teens can borrow.
Hillsborough County library officials will put new parental controls in place in early 2024 that cover the materials 30,000 children and teens can borrow. [ GEORGE WILKENS | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Oct. 18, 2023|Updated Oct. 18, 2023

Thirty-thousand children could face new restrictions on what they can borrow from Hillsborough County libraries under expanded parental controls to begin early next year.

The plan, blessed unanimously by county commissioners Wednesday and previously approved by the their library advisory board, is in response to Commissioner Michael Owen’s call in the spring for better monitoring of what materials children can obtain at the library branches.

“We’re not looking at removing materials, we’re just providing a few extra tools,” said Andrew S. Breidenbaugh, director of library services for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library. “Whatever you and your child have access to today, you and your child will have access (to in the future) if that is your choice.”

Under the new system, which expands some controls already in place for DVDs and internet access, parents can choose one of three library cards for children age 12 or younger. Depending on the card selected, the child would have access to just juvenile materials, or an expanded list to include classics and general nonfiction or else all materials in the library. The county currently has 18,000 card-holders ages 12 or younger.

Card-holders ages 13 to 16 also would have access to graphic novels and young adult fiction or R-rated or unrated DVDs if their parents choose. Similarly, they also could have unrestricted access to all library materials if parents allow it. There are 12,000 card-holders ages 13 to 16.

As examples, Breidenbaugh and Owen listed Homer’s “The Iliad” as a classic and the “Twilight” series of fantasy romance novels by Stephenie Meyer as young adult fiction. Breidenbaugh described graphic novels as larger, bound comic books.

The county previously dropped its affiliation with the American Library Association when its membership expired. The nonprofit organization was founded in 1876 and promotes libraries and library education internationally. But county staff said previously they saw little return on the county’s annual dues of $2,111.

Owen had targeted the membership in March, saying the association had “gone radical.” He pointed to association’s then-incoming president, Emily Drabinski, an academic librarian at the City University of New York, who called herself a Marxist in a tweet posted after she won the office last year.

The parental control plan drew just one public comment Wednesday. Debbie Hunt, executive director of Hillsborough County Citizens Defending Freedom, commended the board for terminating the American Library Association membership and for letting the staff devise the new access rules.