Steps are being taken in Congress that couldresolve many of publishers', resellers', and libraries' concerns regarding theConsumer Product Safety Improvement Act. On March 12, Representative HenryWaxman (D-California) released a draft amendment to the Act that addresses someof the complaints from a variety of industry groups. Of interest to publishers,booksellers and libraries, the proposed amendment would give the ConsumerProduct Safety Commission more leeway in excluding products that pose minimalrisk to children, including most ink-on-paper and ink-on-board books. It alsowould provide relief to resellers, including vendors of used children's booksand, potentially, libraries.
The draft document follows a January reportfrom the CPSC to Congress in which the Commission outlined the problems it perceives with the Act. Thereport highlighted the concerns of publishers, libraries and resellers, amongother constituencies.
"We believe the intention of this [draftamendment] is to fix our situation," says Emily Sheketoff, executive directorof the American Library Association's Washington Office, who is awaitingclarification from the CPSC on whether the section in the draft that providesrelief to resellers would apply to libraries as well. "If it's not asrock-solid as we want, we'll suggest some clearer language."
The Commission long promised that it would issueguidance specifically addressing libraries, but came to the conclusion that thelaw as currently written doesn't allow them to do so. Sheketoff notes that ifthe proposed amendment does confirm that libraries can continue to lend olderbooks, "we will aggressively campaign to get some co-sponsors and help it pass.Getting any legislation through now is difficult, but if we can get abipartisan group of co-sponsors, it will be easier."
The CPSIA was enacted in August 2008 and, aftera year's delay, went into effect inFebruary 2010, despite several unanswered questions about how to comply withits provisions, especially with regard to testing. The Act's intent was toprotect children age 15 and under from risks due to lead and phthalates, andwas spurred by some large recalls of lead-containing toys. Although the CPSChas said it would not enforce the law for "ordinary" children's books printedafter 1985, the publishing industry has fought to be exempted from the Actaltogether (with the exception of toy-like novelty and book-plus formats).