Sunday, January 11, 2009

ALA Uses Common Sense on CPSIA Child Safety Issue; Congratulations to Emily Sheketoff and the ALA Washington Office

The American Library Association [ALA] is using common sense on a library child safety issue, and I congratulate Emily Sheketoff of the ALA. A proposed federal law would require children's products, including books, to be checked for lead, and libraries may be held liable, even if no child gets lead poisoning. I know, sounds silly, doesn't it? But see: "Congress Bans Kids From Libraries? New Safety Law May Prohibit Children Under 12 from Libraries–or Make Many Books Illegal," by Lissa Harris, The Boston Phoenix, 9 January 2009. Quote, emphasis mine:

Is it possible that Congress has just inadvertently turned millions of children’s books into contraband? .... “We are very busy trying to come up with a way to make [the proposed law] not apply to libraries,” said Sheketoff. But unless she succeeds in lobbying Capitol Hill for an exemption, she believes libraries have two choices under the CPSIA [Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act]: “Either they take all the children’s books off the shelves,” she says, “or they ban children from the library.”

SafeLibraries is very concerned about child safety in the public library. But CPSIA is overbroad. The ALA is right for taking a stand against this legislation. Way to go, Emily Sheketoff and the ALA Washington Office!

For more on how CPSIA is overbroad, see: "CPSIA: Furor Builds Over Toyless Shelves," by Walter Olson, Overlawyered, 11 January 2009.

NOTE ADDED 13 May 2011:

Good news:  "Good News for Libraries, Bad News for Publishers in Proposed CPSIA Amendment," by Karen Raugust, Publishers Weekly, 13 May 2011.
A proposed bill that would amend the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 is giving hope to many of the industries affected by the Act, including children’s libraries and used booksellers. “It solves our problem,” says Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association’s Washington Office.


  1. See also, "Pelosi's Toy Story," by Opinion Journal, Wall Street Journal, 14 Jan 2009.

    "And while childrens books may contain no more noxious materials than paper and ink, under the new rules they would still need a test to prove it."

  2. Ha! Right now I'm hearing about the ALA's efforts in this regard on the top-of-the-hour ABC radio news. Great going, ALA!

  3. ALA Action Alert:

    A public meeting was held January 22, and Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), stated that a decision should be made by the first week of February regarding libraries. She advised libraries not to take any action at this time, and we are hopeful that the Commission's decision will exempt libraries.

    Even with her assurances, we must let the CPSC know how important an issue this is to libraries. Please call the Acting Commissioner, Nancy Nord, at (301) 504-7923. When you call this number, wait for the automated directory to give you directions to reach Nancy Nord's office. Explain to the Commission that it is simply impossible for libraries to remove all children's books from the shelves and/or ban children under 12 from the library and still provide the level of service that is needed.

    For talking points, see

  4. "The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today released an announcement to the Federal Register staying implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) until February 10, 2010." From "Consumer Product Safety Commission Announces One-Year Stay on Implementation of Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act," by Emily Sheketoff, ALA, 30 January 2009.

  5. Here's a video of a child eating reading material and the parent finding this amusing (it is-just more proof the ALA is right):

    Read to Children to Improve Our Future, by TopekaLibrary, 18 February 2009.

  6. Look at this!

    "The ALA was FOR CPSIA Before They Were AGainst It," by Headmistress and Zookeeper, The Common Room, 13 March 2009. The following is all a direct quote from this source:

    Book Trails for Baby Feet, volume 1 of a series first published in the 20s and then republished in 1948. I've been off chasing some trails of my own yesterday, and found an astonishing thing.

    The ALA is listed as supporters of the CPSIA in a congressman's release from sometime last year.

    NO WONDER they've acted so oddly- keeping it a secret when they get rid of books, refusing to listen to those who actually read the bill and recognize it applies to ALL products, blaming Nord and the CPSC and absolving Waxman et al, while listening to every sweet nothing Waxman and company whisper in their ears.

    Senator Levin, when he voted in favor of the bill (H.R. 4040) listed the American LIbrary Association as one of the many organizations in favor of it.

    SHAME on you, ALA.

    This Google Cache page from the Democratic Policy Committee says the same thing, and reveals how President Bush pushed back against the CPSIA:

    The Bush Administration released a Statement of Administration Policy on S. 2663 on March 3 in opposition to several provisions of the bill. The statement, however, did not include a specific veto threat.

    The following persons and organizations have expressed support for or endorsed S. 2663.

    Thomas H. Moore, Consumer Product Safety Commissioner

    Alliance for Patient Safety

    American Academy of Pediatrics

    American Association of Law Libraries

    American Association of University Professors, AZ Conference

    American Library Association ...

    Here's more from that page:

    ...As Congress sought to develop CPSC reform legislation in the Senate and House, members faced opposition from the Acting Chair of the CPSC, Nancy Nord, who rejected efforts to increase the Commission’s funding.

    Undeterred, the House passed legislation in December 2007, entitled the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act of 2007 (H.R 4040). ...[the senate version would...]
    ...Provide greater penalties for violators and resources for law enforcement by increasing civil penalties up to $250,000 per violation, creating criminal penalties of up to five years in jail, authorizing State Attorneys General to pursue injunctive relief, and extending whistleblower protections to manufacturers’ employees; and

    ...Public Disclosure of Product Information. S. 2663 would amend the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) to authorize the CPSC to shorten the notification period to 15 days before the Commission can release information on a consumer product. Currently, the Commission must wait 30 days after notifying a manufacturer that information on its product is about to be released and providing a summary of the information to be released. The CPSA would also be amended to permit the CPSC to shorten the notification period further if it publishes a finding that the public health and safety requires a shorter timeframe.
    ...Consumer Product Safety Database. S. 2663 would require the CPSC to establish and maintain a publicly available and searchable database on the Commission’s website. The database would include any reports of injury, illness, death or the risk of injury, illness, or death related to the use of consumer products received by the Commission from sources including consumers, health care professionals, child service providers, public safety entities, government agencies, and other non-governmental sources. If the Commission determined, after investigation, that information made available on the database was incorrect the Commission would be required to promptly remove it from the database. A manufacturer, private labeler, or retailer would be given an opportunity to comment on any information involving a product manufactured by that manufacturer, or distributed by that private labeler or retailer.
    ...Prohibition on Stockpiling. S. 2663 would authorize the Commission to prohibit, by rule, a manufacturer from stockpiling a product that is subject to a rule under the CPSA or any other law enforced by the CPSC.

    S.A. 4094 (Cornyn) -- An amendment to prohibit State Attorneys General from entering into an contingency fee agreement for legal or expert witness services relating to civil actions authorized in S. 2663.

    I am pretty sure that amendment made its way to the cutting room floor.

    Additional Democratic and Republican amendments are expected. While it is unclear the subject of those amendments, it is anticipated that a focus will be on the provisions of the bill that deal with databases, whistleblowers, and State Attorneys General. It is also anticipated that an amendment will be offered to substitute the language of H.R. 4040. An amendment on drug importation from Canada may also be offered.

    Administration Position

    The Bush Administration released a Statement of Administration Policy on S. 2663 on March 3 in opposition to several provisions of the bill. The statement, however, did not include a specific veto threat.


    The following persons and organizations have expressed support for or endorsed S. 2663.

    Thomas H. Moore, Consumer Product Safety Commissioner

    Alliance for Patient Safety

    American Academy of Pediatrics

    American Association of Law Libraries

    American Association of University Professors, AZ Conference

    American Library Association...

    Open The Government Dot Org, an organization proclaiming to be in favor of more democracy, although the CPSIA gives us less, had a call to action a while back demanding:

    Emergency Action Alert - Help Protect America's Families! [An Action Alert from the Government Accountability Project] [Posted 07.16.08]
    Last fall Congress reacted to "killer toy" threats by promising to strengthen the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to genuinely protect America's families. Industry lobbyists, however, convinced the House not to include any whistleblower protections in its version of the bill. Don't let Congress sell you a phony reform: Demand Whistleblowers Rights in S. 2045/ H.R. 4040.

    This is the CPSIA, and the whistleblower protection clause is one that businesses all objected to.

    Click on their link to 'coalition partners' and we find some of the usual suspects, Public Citizen, US PIRG, and.... The American Library Association.

    Click on their link to staff:

    Patrice McDermott joins as Director after more than 4 years as the Deputy Director of the Office of Government Relations at the American Library Association Washington Office. She joined ALA in December 2001, after having served for 8 years as the senior information policy analyst for OMB Watch.

    At ALA, she had lead responsibility for government information and privacy policy, and e-government policy issues. Dr. McDermott is a frequent speaker on public access and on electronic surveillance and privacy issues.

    Amy Fuller, Program Associate:

    After graduating from Tufts, Amy worked in the office of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (May 2002 - February 2005).

    Rep. Schakowsky, of course, is the Representative who took important time away from the work of legislating in order to attempt to emotionally manipulate Kathleen Fasanella into taking down one of her more effective arguments in favor of reforming the CPSIA, and Schakowsky exploited and misrepresented the deaths and injuries of several children in order to falsely shame Ms Fasanella.

    Am I claiming a conspiracy? Not exactly. Just a tightly insular circle of friends and organizations, and a certain blind disregard for facts that contradict what your friends are claiming. The ALA probably didn't even read the bill, they just went along with the crowd of friends from PIRG, Public Citizen, People for the American Way, and others. And now it's come back to bite them. They want an exemption for themselves, and don't really care how much it harms other businesses and organizations, charities, programs that help the disabled. Bad form, very bad form.

    And we should have seen this coming:
    From August 15th of 2008 at the Law Librarian:

    Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act Signed Into Law

    With very little fanfare, President Bush signed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, H.R. 4040, into law yesterday. [Thomas Resources | Open Congress Resources]. The legislation was Congress' response to massive consumer product recalls. A record-breaking 448 products were recalled last year - about half of them for children's products. [SPSC Product Recalls | Search Product Recalls by County of Manufacture]. Provisions include the following:

    * Provides authority for State Attorneys General to uniformly enforce consumer product safety laws and act expeditiously to remove dangerous products from shelves.
    * Decreases waiting periods for disclosure of consumer product information by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) when disclosure would permit the public to ascertain readily the identity of the manufacturer or private labeler. Provides for expedited court actions to release information on products to the public.
    * Requires the CPSC to maintain on its website a publicly available, searchable database that includes any reports received by the CPSC of injuries, illness, death, or risk of such injury, illness, or death related to the use of consumer products other than information provided to the Commission by manufacturers, private labelers, or retailers. Allows inclusion in the database of comments by manufacturers, labelers, or retailers.

    Next on the Legislative Agenda: FDA Food Safety Modernization. Three of the top four Republicans on the Senate committee that oversees the FDA — Judd Gregg (New Hampshire), Lamar Alexander (Tennessee) and Richard Burr (North Carolina) — are cosponsoring a bill that aims to do for the FDA what Congress did this year for the CPSC. The bill, S. 3385, FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, was tossed into the bill hopper on July 31, 2008 by Senator Richard Durbin (D - Illinois)[Thomas] It authorizes the FDA to set commodity-specific safety standards for produce and require importers to verify that the foods they’re bringing in were produced according to U.S. rules. The FDA also would be authorized to certify third-party inspections of both domestic and foreign food facilities and would be empowered for the first time to require recalls of tainted products. [JH]

    Emphasis added. Other CPSIA News:

    Also be sure to take a look at Walter Olson's blogpost on minibikes and kids (and also snowmobiles).

    Another 8 pages of the same stuff from the CPSC.

    Bobby Bright introduces a reform bill of his own that would provide thrift shops with a two year exemption for selling 'clothes, textiles, shoes, and books."

    Scott Wolfson of the CPSC gives an interview to a CYcle News:

    CN: Does the CPSC know how heavily this is impacting our industry?
    SW: Yes. We feel for the dealers. We know what they're going through. They have made the right decision to pull the youth models off of showroom floors and put them in storage for the time being. CPSC has never told them to throw them away. We want them to hold them and wait until we make a final decision. But at the same time we want everyone who has interest in this activity to understand, this is a very challenging issue for us. It is not cut and dry and I don't say that in the context of CPSC thinking that kids are chewing on their dirt bike. That is not the perspective we have. The issue we have to look at is the issue of hand-to-mouth contact. It's what this law calls for. We're asking questions and we're trying to glean information about exactly where the lead is in a dirt bike, [if it’s] accessible to the touch of a child, and one of the key questions that came up: Are there any design changes that can be made to remove lead from the process of manufacturing?

    The first part of that article tells us how 'any' became the billion dollar word, as does this one.

    Somebody's been sitting in my chair, and I think it was Congress. Look what they've done to my chair, ma.


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