Montgomery County officials have adopted a new mom-approved policy for reviewing public library books that puts citizens in charge of determining what is appropriate for children and young adults.

County Judge Mark Keough presented the new library book reconsideration policy at the March 26 Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting.

A panel of citizens appointed by the commissioners will review titles in the children’s and young adult sections of county libraries that residents submit as inappropriate for those age groups.

Committee members must complete their reviews within one month of residents’ requests, and library staff must carry out the committee’s decisions within 14 days. Books will be moved to the adult section during the review period.

If a majority of committee members determines that a reviewed book is inappropriate for children or young adults, it will be moved to a section that requires an adult to check out the material.

Parents had been asking for changes to the library review policy for months.

“It’s been a long road,” said Michele Nuckolls, a Montgomery County mom who advocates for keeping the children’s section of local libraries safe and appropriate for kids.

“I first sounded the alarm about concerning children’s books at commissioners court a year ago,” Nuckolls told Texas Scorecard. “I found books that not only teach children about medical transition, but also about finding more information on the internet and removing search histories to hide them from parents.”

In July, commissioners responded to Nuckolls and other parents by approving policy changes to limit kids’ access to sexually explicit books in the county’s public libraries.

Commissioners instructed Library Director Rhea Young to group books in the children’s collection by genre so books with sexual themes are easily identified. They also approved a policy that children under 18 years old cannot check out books with adult content.

But inappropriate books remained accessible to kids.

“I challenged two of the most alarming children’s books late last year and the committee head, a librarian, sent me a letter saying that they would stay right where they were,” said Nuckolls. “The old policy was not working.”

Nuckolls said the county library system’s previous reconsideration policy was established in 2013, and the review committee was run by librarians.

“There are currently 10 members—five librarians and five citizens. But that committee never takes a vote and nothing they do is binding,” she said.

Under the new policy, Nuckolls said “citizens on the committee are appointed by the court members who are accountable to the voters.”

Each commissioner will appoint one member who will serve up to four years.

“The citizens will be appointed to a reconsideration committee directly by the commissioners themselves. I am confident they will select wise people,” said Tomball mom Jennifer Kratky, another proponent of the new policy who attended the commissioners court meeting.

“Materials that don’t align with community values will be moved to a ‘parenting’ section restricted to adults for checkout,” said Kratky. “This will be a huge relief to so many moms who have shared with me that bringing their children to the library has become stressful due to all the junk being displayed.”

“Taxpayer-funded libraries should reflect the wishes of those paying the taxes,” she added.

Kratky told Texas Scorecard the court meeting room was completely full, with many in favor of the new policy wearing red. Several county residents spoke for and against the policy.

Teresa Kenney, owner of Village Books in The Woodlands, brought a petition circulated by the Texas Freedom to Read Project, a group that opposes age restrictions on access to library books. She told commissioners that the petition gathered more than 1,100 signatures of people who objected to the policy.

“Whose values and standards are being used as a benchmark?” she asked.

Christian Collins, a local conservative activist, told commissioners he was “baffled” by people suggesting their opinions matter more because they have degrees in library science or education.

“Many people have a degree in common sense,” he said. “I’m baffled that we’re still talking about this.”

Nuckolls summarized the new policy “in regular mom language” and addressed some of the criticisms and misconceptions.

  • There will be two reconsideration committees. Librarians will review books in the adult section of the library, while citizens will review materials in the children’s, young adult, and “parenting” sections.
  • The new “parenting” section of the library contains “sensitive youth books that you might not want your child to pick up independently” and requires an adult to check out books shelved there.
  • Only Montgomery County residents may submit a reconsideration request. As with the previous policy, no proof of residency is required, but the form does require a name and a residential address within the county.
  • A book may be only be removed completely from the library system if the committee unanimously agrees that it meets the standard of harmful material defined in the Texas Penal Code.

“I would honestly be surprised if we saw one book removed a year, and I don’t believe any will be removed at all,” said Nuckolls. “The bar is very high.”

A list of removed books will be provided to the commissioners’ court annually.

Commissioners voted 3-1 in favor of the new policy. Judge Keough and Commissioners Matt Gray and Robert Walker voted yes. Commissioner Charlie Riley voted no, citing a concern about lawsuits.

Commissioner James Noack, who just lost his 2024 Republican primary race, was absent.

“I am so proud of Judge Keough and Commissioner Walker for bringing this reasonable and even-handed policy to the commissioners,” said Nuckolls. “This puts the decision about what is age-appropriate back into the hands of the citizens.”

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.