Librarians cite safeguards as Tennessee bill seeks verification that access to obscene content is blocked on student research databases

Arian Campo-Flores:

The databases—assembled by research companies such as Ebsco Information Services and Gale, part of Cengage Group—are collections of newspaper, magazine and journal articles, as well as ebooks and other resources. State agencies, libraries and school districts typically contract with the companies to make the databases available to students, who can access them in class as well as through local libraries and online accounts.

Conservative parents’ groups have mounted various challenges to the databases since at least the mid-2010s. The rise of parents’ rights groups in the past few years, focused on issues of race and gender in school curricula and classroom discussion, has added fuel to the database effort.

At least eight states—most dominated by Republicans—including Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah, passed or considered database legislation in the past year, according to EveryLibrary, an advocacy organization opposed to the measures.

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed into law this week a bill passed by the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature that would require companies to verify that their databases block access to obscene content and prevent users from viewing material harmful to minors, as defined under current law. School districts could withhold payment to a database provider if it failed to do so, under the bill.