Stack of books on table against bookshelves at a library

Mississippi Book Banning Law Causes All Kids To Lose Access to Public Library E-Books, Audiobooks Across the State

A new Mississippi book-banning law may result in minors across the state no longer being able to access e-books or audiobooks through public libraries. Mississippi Code § 39-3-25, also known as Senate Bill 2346, passed the House and went into effect on July 1, 2023, resulting in many libraries having to adjust their policies to comply with the new law. Initially, Senate Bill 2346 was crafted to require pornographic websites to implement age-verification systems for minors in Mississippi. This is similar to other age-verification bills that are sweeping the United States. However, lawmakers then saw the opportunity to target books through the bill.

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Book banning has reached new heights recently, and minors are often the biggest victims of the censorship campaign. Parents and politicians claim that censorship is necessary to protect children from harmful material like pornography. However, many of these book bans include LGBTQ+ representation in their definitions of “pornography” and “sexually oriented materials.” They cry “pornography” to get everyone on their side—because who’s going to disagree with preventing children from seeing pornography?—but then the underlying agenda is censoring LGBTQ+ representation, history, or anything else they find objectionable. While book banning has spread through school libraries, it has also hit public libraries as well. This raises concern over public resources being taken away from the children and teens who rely on them most.

Now, Mississippi is using a skewed definition of “sexually oriented” and a law against disseminating harmful content to minors to block audio and e-book access for children across the state.

New Mississippi book-banning law explained

The bill stipulates that public libraries and state agencies cannot provide minors with access to any digital resources or databases unless the vendor of these materials verifies that all of the content is appropriate and complies with the bill’s provisions. Content that does not comply with Bill 2346 includes child pornography, “materials that depict child sexual exploitation or trafficking,” obscene materials, materials dealing with sex, cruelty, or violence, and sexually oriented materials. “Sexually oriented” materials are defined in Miss. § 97-5-27 as materials with:

Representations or descriptions, actual or simulated, of masturbation, sodomy, excretory functions, lewd exhibition of the genitals or female breasts, sadomasochistic abuse (for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification), homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, sexual intercourse, or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or the breast or breasts of a female for the purpose of sexual stimulation, gratification or perversion.

Physical books won’t be impacted by this law, but audiobooks and e-books certainly will. Many libraries utilize resources like OverDrive and Hoopla to allow library cardholders instant access to a wide array of e-books and audiobooks. This means that libraries can’t offer these resources unless they can verify that all the content on these platforms complies with Mississippi’s bill or have a system in place to prevent minors from accessing content that isn’t in compliance with the bill. Hoopla and OverDrive do not have systems in place to restrict access to certain content for certain age groups. Based on what this bill prohibits, content like e-books on human anatomy or LGBTQ+ YA books would violate Mississippi’s law.

Essentially, this law means that a lot of public libraries in Mississippi have no option but to ban resources like Hoopla and OverDrive for minors completely. It’s not feasible for them to manually check every single title available on these platforms for the long list of prohibited content, and they can’t somehow block all of these titles only for anyone under the age of 18. Plus, a violation of the bill could result in a $500 – $5,000 fine or even prison time.

As a result, libraries like First Regional Library in Hernando, MS, are being forced to deny Hoopla and OverDrive access to all minors. Libraries like Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library have also instated new rules requiring anyone under 18 to have parental/guardian permission to receive a library card 9the previous age was 16). In Mississippi, children as young as 15 can legally marry, but now cannot access digital resources in a library or take out a library card.

For teens who live in unstable, abusive, or neglectful homes, Vicksburg’s rules mean that they might not have access to any library resources if they can’t get parental permission. Teens who relied on Hoopla and OverDrive to discreetly check out books on topics they’re struggling with (such as sexual abuse or navigating sexuality) will also lose this vital access. As usual, the youngest, most vulnerable, and least privileged members of society will be disproportionately negatively impacted by this latest attempt to censor content. And all because a handful of right-wingers disagrees with it.

(featured image: Kenishirotie/Getty Images)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.