Librarians can breathe a sigh of relief in the wake of a one-year stay of enforcement on having to test for lead in books geared to youngsters under the age of 12. The extension until February 10, 2010, puts an end to the nightmare scenario envisioned by some in the library community of having to either ban children from their facilities or cordon off the book collections in youth services areas until federal regulators concede that children’s literature complies with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.
The January 30 announcement (PDF file) came only days after several representatives of the Consumer Product Safety Commission heard the concerns of the publishing industry during the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Denver. Afterward, CPSC General Counsel Cheryl Farley reassured libraries that they did not have to take any action at this time, ALA Washington Office Associate Executive Director Jessica McGilvray reported January 22.
Acknowledging the burden of imposing a testing mandate before there are definitive laboratory procedures for children’s books, the January 30 notice indicated that such previously unregulated items might receive “appropriate relief” from testing and certification if the publishing industry “provide[s] the additional information requested by our staff in a timely manner.”
Nonetheless, Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff cautioned, “This announcement is not an end to this problem. Since we know children’s books are safe, libraries are still asking to be exempt from regulation under this law.” She went on to assure the library community that ALA “will continue to work with members of Congress and the CPSC to ensure that a year from now, this matter is resolved once and for all, and America’s libraries remain open and welcoming to children.”
In the meantime, some children’s librarians—already vigilant about lead levels in toys available at their libraries—are reporting on the discussion list for ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children that they are sending playthings out for third-party testing. ALSC Executive Diane Foote advised that “before taking drastic action,” librarians should consult the CPSC timetable for rulemaking (PDF file).