Texas Register Preamble

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (commission) adopts new §4.2, School Library Programs: Collection Development Standards. The new section is adopted with changes to the proposed text as published in the October 27, 2023, issue of the Texas Register (48 TexReg 6291) and will be republished.

EXPLANATION OF ADOPTED NEW SECTIONS. The new section establishes collection development standards a school district must adhere to in developing or implementing the district's library collection development policies. The new rule is adopted to implement House Bill 900, 88th R.S. (2023) (HB 900), which amended Education Code, §33.021, to require the commission, with approval by majority vote of the State Board of Education (SBOE), to adopt these standards by January 1, 2024. The SBOE approved the standards at their December 13, 2023, meeting.

New §4.2(a) requires each public school district board of trustees or governing body to approve and institute a collection development policy that describes the processes and standards by which a school library acquires, maintains, and withdraws materials.

New §4.2(b) provides that school library collections should include a range of materials that are age appropriate and suitable to the campus and students the school library serves, offering guidance on the overall goals of a school library's collection. Under this guidance, a collection should enrich and support the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) while taking into consideration students' varied interests, maturity levels, abilities, and learning styles; foster growth in factual knowledge, literary appreciation, aesthetic values, and societal standards; encourage the enjoyment of reading, foster high-level thinking skills, support personal learning, and encourage discussion based on rational analysis; and represent the ethnic, religious, and cultural groups of the state and their contribution to Texas, the nation, and the world.

New §4.2(c) enumerates multiple requirements for a school library collection development policy, including the requirements stated in HB 900.

New §4.2(d) defines "evaluation of materials" to include consideration of the factors proposed to guide library collections generally in subsection (b), which includes that the materials are age appropriate and suitable to the campus and students the library serves, local priorities and school district standards, and at least two additional factors, such as recommendations from parents, guardians, and local community members; consultation with educators and library staff; an extensive review of the text; the context of a work; or authoritative reviews.

New §4.2(e) provides that a reconsideration process should ensure that any parent or legal guardian of a student enrolled in the district or current school district employee may request the reconsideration of a specific item in their school district's library catalog. The rule further requires that a reconsideration process establish a uniform procedure an individual must follow when filing a request. The process should also include a reasonable timeframe for the review and final decision and establish a uniform process for the treatment of any library material undergoing reconsideration by a committee charged with review of the item in its entirety. The process should include a review and appeal process and provide that if an item has gone through the reconsideration process and remains in the collection, the school district may not be required to reconsider an item within two calendar years of final decision. For example, if a final decision on an item under reconsideration is made on March 1, 2025, the school district could not be required to reconsider the item again until March 2, 2027.

New §4.2(f) encourages a school district to ensure a State Board for Educator Certification certified professional librarian or other dedicated professional library staff trained on proper collection development standards is responsible for the selection and acquisition of library materials.

New §4.2(g) requires a school district to develop collection assessment and evaluation procedures to periodically appraise the quality of library materials in the school library to ensure the library's goals, objectives, and information needs are serving its school community.

New §4.2(h) recommends school districts review their collection development policies at least every three years, a practice that will ensure the policy remains up-to-date and consistent with current district priorities.

New §4.2(i) allows school districts to add procedures to the minimum requirements to satisfy local needs so long as the added procedures do not conflict with the minimum requirements.

Lastly, new §4.2(j) provides that school districts are responsible for ensuring their school libraries implement and adhere to these collection development standards. The commission has no enforcement authority with respect to school libraries.

SUMMARY OF COMMENTS. The Commission received 26 comments during the comment period on the proposed rule as discussed below.

COMMENT. The Commission received multiple comments expressing support for the proposed rule. The Lewisville Independent School District (LISD) provided comment in support of the following components of the proposed collection development standards:

Section 4.2(i), which establishes the standards as a minimum ensuring districts maintain local control;

Section 4.2(c)(7)A), which recognizes that parents are the primary decision-makers regarding their individual student's access to library materials;

Section 4.2(d), which includes multiple sources for selection aids in having a high-quality library collection; and

Section 4.2(e), which limits the reconsideration process to a parent or legal guardian of students within the district.

The Children's Defense Fund - Texas (CDF-Texas) provided comment largely in support of the proposed standards, commending the Commission's efforts to balance compliance with the law with healthy respect for local districts, individual needs, and community input. Specifically, CDF-Texas expressed support for the following three elements of the standards: allowing school districts to use their discretion to craft local policies that meet the unique needs of their students; prioritizing district parents, students, and employees in the reconsideration process; and recognizing the value of professional reviews in guiding library collection and acquisition decisions.

The Texas Library Association (TLA) submitted a comment supporting the standards, noting they will provide guidance and a strong foundation upon which school districts can build policies that support the educational needs of Texas students.

Five individuals also provided general comments of support regarding the proposed rule, with one commenter requesting the standards be approved as written, one commenter noting we have a moral duty to protect children from sexually explicit material, one commenter expressing they were happy the new standards included references to Texas law, one individual thanking the Commission for §4.2(c)(7) and expressing hope the adopted rules can be enforced for the children's sake, and one individual providing information regarding personal experience to demonstrate support of the collection development standards.

RESPONSE. The Commission appreciates the comments in support of the proposed rule.

COMMENT. Two individuals provided comment regarding the economic impact of the proposed rule. One individual commented that the statements in the preamble noting no anticipated economic costs to persons required to comply with the proposed new section and no adverse economic impact on small businesses, micro-businesses, or rural communities are incorrect. The commenter noted that school staff will have to write policies incorporating this policy into their own policies and librarians will have to develop new procedures for handling material labeled "sexually relevant," move library materials to accommodate a special shelf area and develop processes for tracking these changes across all the vendors they utilize. The commenter also noted a huge cost to booksellers. The other individual commented on the fiscal impact of HB 900, noting the costs involved in local committee meetings, librarians reviewing state laws and contested materials, bookseller ratings of materials and determining process for access, and policy reviews every two years.

RESPONSE. The Commission disagrees that the proposed rule would have an economic impact on persons required to comply with the rule or on small businesses, micro-businesses, or rural communities. The Commission notes that any potential economic impact and costs to schools described in the comments are not a result of the Commission's rule regarding collection development standards. Rather, any potential costs result from the statute (Education Code, §33.021) requiring school districts to adhere to the standards and explicitly specifying content for inclusion in the standards. Similarly, the requirement for different treatment of library materials rated as sexually relevant is required by Education Code, §35.005 (Parental Consent Required for Use of Certain Library Materials) and merely restated in the rule as required by Education Code, §33.021. Finally, the requirement for ratings by vendors is not a result of the Commission's rule. That requirement is specified in Education Code, §35.002 (Ratings Required).

COMMENT. One individual commented that the rule should require challenges to be submitted individually, as long lists of books for reconsideration prevent the process from occurring in a timely manner.

RESPONSE. The Commission appreciates the comment. Section 4.2(i) authorizes school districts to add procedures to the minimum requirements to satisfy local needs so long as the added procedures do not conflict with the minimum requirements. School districts are encouraged to create a reconsideration process that meets the individual school district's needs, which could include a requirement that requests for reconsideration be submitted individually. The Commission declines to make this change in the rule, however, as individual school districts have varying capacities for managing reconsideration requests.

COMMENT. LISD requested the Commission add superintendent or superintendent designee to §4.2(e)(3) to ensure district administration can support campuses through the reconsideration process.

RESPONSE. The Commission agrees with the comment and replaces "campus administrator" with "superintendent or superintendent designee" to ease the administrative burden on school districts and ensure campuses have flexibility.

COMMENT. One individual commented that §4.2(e) should require a complainant to read the entire book, encourage an informal meeting with a librarian and/or administrator, and require that the book in question be reviewed in its entirety.

RESPONSE. The Commission appreciates the comment. Section 4.2(i) authorizes school districts to add procedures to the minimum requirements to satisfy local needs so long as the added procedures do not conflict with the minimum requirements. While a school district may stipulate this requirement in its individual reconsideration policy, the Commission declines to make this change in the rule and concludes this decision is best left to school districts. The Commission does, however, confirm that a review committee must read an item under reconsideration in its entirety, and has made a clarifying change on adoption in §4.2(e)(4) in response to comments.

COMMENT. TLA and one individual commented on the inclusion of "authority" in §4.2(e)(4). TLA noted that the reference to an authority is vague and that it is important that those charged with the review of a library book reflect the community of the school it serves rather than an individual or group of individuals who do not know the campus. The individual commented that the reference to a committee or authority is unclear, asking how such a committee would be formed and whether it would vary from year to year.

RESPONSE. The Commission agrees that further clarification is needed, and amends §4.2(e)(4) to delete "authority" and clarify that a district "should convene a review committee in accordance with criteria established by the district to ensure a thorough and fair process."

COMMENT. CDF-Texas and Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT) both commented that books should remain available while under review and reconsideration. SEAT further commented that all books currently on school library shelves already go through an extensive review by qualified educators and librarians.

RESPONSE. The Commission notes that this issue was discussed during the November 3, 2023, Commission meeting and the Commission ultimately decided to allow local districts to assess their own needs and comfort level with potential risks involved in removing books from the shelves rather than mandate uniform treatment of books statewide. The Commission declines to make this recommended change.

COMMENT. TLA and two individuals commented that a book undergoing reconsideration should be reviewed in its entirety. TLA further noted that to make an informed decision about material being reconsidered, it is important for the review committee to read the material in its entirety and not rely on a summary, excerpts of text, or a contextual review as such information does not provide an adequate understanding of the material.

RESPONSE. The Commission agrees with this comment and notes this was the intent of the proposed provision. For clarity, the Commission will make the suggested change in §4.2(e)(4).

COMMENT. TLA, LISD, and three individuals commented that the time frame within which a book may not be reconsidered after it has gone through the reconsideration process should be extended (ranging from three to five years), as reconsideration processes require significant time and resources. LISD commented that reconsideration of materials requires eight to ten hours of work by a district committee, so allowing for reconsideration of a single title every year would create an undue burden on the district. An individual expressed concern about opportunities in the rule for abuse that could clog library and school district time and resources, specifically noting that the one-year provision related to reconsideration would result in an inefficient use of a school's resources.

RESPONSE. The Commission agrees that a one-year time frame for a subsequent reconsideration of an item that has gone through the reconsideration process and remained in the collection could result in an inefficient use of school district resources. However, rather than mandate a minimum timeframe, the Commission is modifying the language of §4.2(e)(7) to provide that if an item has gone through the reconsideration process and remains in the collection, a school district may not be required to reconsider an item within two calendar years of final decision. The Commission believes this change provides districts with additional flexibility to manage reconsideration requests, appropriately and effectively consider items in the school library collection, and make efficient use of school district resources.

COMMENT. SEAT requested that a line be included in §4.2(c)(7)(F) explicitly recommending schools communicate with parents regarding books being removed from their child's library, informing families of newly created gaps in their student's literary options in the interest of transparency to parents.

RESPONSE. The Commission appreciates the comment and encourages school districts to communicate with parents regarding the school library collection and reconsideration process but declines to add the suggested language mandating this specific communication statewide. The Commission also notes that school districts are subject to the Public Information Act and this information could be obtained on request. A school district that receives numerous requests for this type of information may well decide to make this information available to parents regularly.

COMMENT. TLA and five individuals provided comment suggesting the time period specified for policy review in §4.2(h) be extended (ranging from three to five years), citing the significant time and cost involved in policy reviews and updates and implementation of new policies, which may require new processes and additional training.

RESPONSE. The Commission agrees that the minimum time period for policy review should be extended from at least every two years to at least every three years. The Commission also notes that the rule only requires a policy update if the update is necessary.

COMMENT. LISD and four individuals provided comment expressing concern over inclusion of classroom libraries in the collection development standards. One individual noted that classroom libraries are not governed by school libraries or school librarians. One individual similarly noted that school librarians are not in charge of classroom libraries nor are they responsible for what a teacher chooses to have on their shelves. Another individual expressed concern over the additional time that would be required of librarians to ensure compliance with all books in every teacher's classroom, which would take away from student instruction. LISD noted that the inclusion of classroom libraries in the standards creates an undue burden on classroom teachers to catalog and maintain collections. LISD recommended that classroom libraries have their own standards that consider the context of a classroom, a classroom teacher's job responsibilities, and resources available to classroom teachers to meet standards.

RESPONSE. While the Commission does not disagree that this requirement could place an additional burden on public school librarians, the Commission notes that this portion of the rule is a required element of HB 900, specifically Education Code, §33.021(d)(2)(C). Therefore, the Commission is required by law to include this element in the collection development rule and declines to make the requested change. The Commission will, however, change the rule language to mirror the statute to ensure no statutory intent is lost by changing "apply to" to "be required for."

COMMENT. One individual requested flexibility within the school district book purchasing process by allowing school librarians to purchase "unrated" books provided the books have been reviewed and sanctioned by reputable outside sources and extending the deadline for the bookstores to create and agree on their rating system.

RESPONSE. The Commission notes that this comment addresses matters outside the scope of proposed §4.2. However, the Commission points out that the collection development standards apply to a library's entire collection, not just books that have been rated by library material vendors. The Commission anticipates that most books sold by library material vendors will appropriately have "no rating."


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