Earlier this month Treg Taylor, Alaska’s attorney general, published a letter to all the school and public libraries in the state to “help inform public servants on what the law is so that no one is caught off guard.” The letter then lists verbatim Alaska statutes on distribution of indecent material to minors, enticement of a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor without actually providing any useful legal guidance like relevant case law.
The real intent of the letter is not to provide legal advice, but rather to threaten and intimidate by spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt. The letter emphasizes that these statutes have no exceptions for educators or librarians, and that they are subject to potential prosecution. Almost every state in our nation except Alaska does have exceptions in their statutes so that these types of laws cannot be used by an overzealous prosecutor to attack people for checking out books.
The letter ends with a strong recommendation that libraries review their policies and the conduct of their employees. If the attorney general believes that there are materials in Alaska’s libraries that should be removed in order to comply with the law he should publish the list of titles. In the meantime, perhaps the governor or the Legislature should review Mr. Taylor’s actions for possible abuse of office.
Librarian, University of Alaska Anchorage