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Libraries and Parental Control

Via LISNews comes this story from the Golden State. The writer of the story (a man, of course) seems a bit too fixated on Sharon Stone’s naughty bits, but it concerns what minors are allowed to charge from libraries. "A new proposal pushed by county Supervisor Bill Horn would require parents to mark a box indicating whether their child could check out R-rated DVDs and videos from [San Diego] county’s 33 libraries. The policy now allows patrons of all ages access to all library materials." The board voted unanimously for the idea, and the libraries now have 60 days to figure out how to implement it. Maybe they’ll come back and tell the board of supervisors it’s impossible to implement, but all that would do is show the board how stupid librarians can be.

The "intellectual" "freedom" "mavens" in California don’t seem to be protesting, at least not the head maven, though her response was a little strange. From the story:

"In general, libraries throughout the United States tend to have liberal policies when it comes to access, said Mary Minow, chairwoman of the California Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee. Restrictions, such as the one proposed in the county, ‘come up occasionally, but it’s not common,’ Minow said.

Minow said she doesn’t see a problem with county libraries giving parents an option as long as the default – when the box isn’t marked properly – isn’t to restrict access. She said it would be unconstitutional to automatically restrict access to movies at a public library using a rating system from the Motion Picture Association of America, a private organization."

Huh? It’s amazing the way the intellectual freedom folks throw out the words "constitutional" and "unconstitutional." I always wonder what constitution they’re talking about. Either they can’t be talking about the United States Constitution or, much more likely, they haven’t read it. I’ve read that document a few times, and can’t think of any part of it that would disallow local public libraries from restricting access to videos based on the MPAA system just because it’s a "private organization." They defend the inclusion of questionable books in their collections because they’ve won book awards, all given by private organizations. If they made the default to restrict unless the parent checked a box, it wouldn’t make any difference to the policy from the perspective of the Constitution.

I guess she just needed to come up with something tough and intellectual freedomy sounding, because there’s no possible argument against this based on the Constitution or anything else other than possibly the ALA Ideology.

The ALA Ideology is that everyone should have access to everything at public expense. Those of us with good sense see the ridiculousness ofthis proposal, but it’s the rationale behind defenses of Internet porn in libraries or of children’s books about drunk guys licking dog scrotums.

The ALA Ideology usually is applied to "challenged" books though, when the challenge regards the access of everyone in the community or the curriculum. Consider this recent case from the Beaver State, where a book has been removed from classrooms in Crook County following a complaint from a father that the book has a reference to masturbation and says it’s an okay thing. He objected after he discovered his son was assigned the book. It doesn’t say how he discovered the reference to masturbation, but maybe he just goes through his son’s school books checking for masturbation references.Takes all kinds to make a world.

I can’t help but think that his motivation is very hypocritical. Based upon my knowledge of men, from puberty on 90% of them develop an intimate and lasting relationship with their right hands; the other 10% develop an intimate and lasting relationship with their left hands. From what I can tell, as this is the most intimate and lasting relationship that most of them will ever be capable of, I don’t see it matters much whether some high school boy reads about it.

Regardless, this challenge, like the Scrotum Controversy last year, and like every other book challenge, is itself criticized because of the way the voices of a few supposedly restrict access to books for the many. That criticism is moot with the San Diego case.

Librarians have become very amoral in recent years, and they excuse their amorality regarding what they make available to children by saying it’s the parent’s responsibility to oversee what their children take out from the library. No sensible librarian could protest the movement in San Diego, because all this new policy does is just what the amoral librarians claim should be going on. It lets parents have a say over what their children watch, or at least check out. It has no effect on the access of the material to others.

Some librarians seem to be upset that the library is using MPAA ratings at all. Movie theaters have to comply, video stores usually willingly comply, but why should libraries? But if this is the local policy governing local libraries, what difference does it make what the librarians say? Libraries are local institutions governed locally, and if they decide to use MPAA ratings or remove materials because they don’t like them, it’s not really anyone else’s business.

So the argument for the policy is that it gives parents the oversight librarians are always claiming they should have. The ALA Ideology won’t work against this proposal, because the decision doesn’t affect access for the whole community. What possible reason could anyone have to oppose this policy?

The only one I can think of is that our culture has become so debased and vulgar that it makes no difference who reads or watches what anymore, so why should the amoral librarians do anything to respect the morality of parents or families? The amoral hedonists enjoy the sludge that passes for television and film these days, so why shouldn’t it be forced on all families regardless of their objections? Why shouldn’t librarians deliberately try to undermine the moral standards of individual families? After all, all the kids have to do is watch television or surf the Internet to come up with much worse. Let the kids watch porn. Who cares? After all, there seem to be plenty of adults who read kiddie books for enjoyment. Maturity is relative.

Maybe there used to be a moral order, but obviously today it has collapsed and we live among the ruins. This is a good thing, right? It lets us be "free." This freedom from all moral restrictions or social conventions is good and healthy. We can see the positive results just by looking at the family breakdown of urban blacks and rural whites, or at the increasing use of antidepressants among apparently everybody. Any society where a large percentage of the population needs some pills just to make it through the day must be a good and happy one. Why should we ruin the pleasures of this happy civilization by helping uptight parents have any say over what their children check out from the library? "Everything should be available to everyone," I can hear the librarians saying. "To hell with the parents!"

Fortunately for San Diego, so far the librarians seem to know better than to say that.

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Comments

  1. First Comment says:

    I commend you, AL, for actually writing a post that doesn’t slam on gaming in libraries in any way. :)

    Yes, I believe that libraries should not restrict access to adults or remove books based on complaints that are essentially relative (what is offensive to one person might not be offensive to the majority and vice-versa). With that being said, I would much rather a library give parents the options of restricting access for their children based on film ratings (much like video rental stores do) instead of restricting access to everybody because somebody’s snowflake might see something bad.

  2. First Comment continued says:

    After all, the alternative is not stocking R-rated films at all, and then the public misses out on genuinely good films; your Oscar winners tend to be rated R, after all. Of course, one can always go to Blockbuster and check out these films, but if libraries are so desperate to stay relevant you would think they would be willing to compromise here and there.

  3. An ILLogical Librarian says:

    I hope that libraries that don’t restrict what kids check out are promoting ILL to them too

    Kids could request Penthouse magazine, Playboy, all kinds of graphic violence books, . . .

    all kinds of good stuff that their local branch doesn’t have but could get for them from somewhere.

    We wouldn’t want the kids to be deprived now, would we?

  4. Brent says:

    If some librarians are claiming it is unconstitutional to limit “intellectual freedom” of kids to watch a R film, I question their reference abilities. I don’t want librarians to be known as the dirty uncle types.

  5. Vegans For Meat says:

    Personally, I think society needs to hit rock bottom. I think we need to let the barbarians in through the gate (which, they already are) and I fully support the library’s role in this. The question is does the library really have any influence on kids, generally speaking? Or, is the library an impotent institution in the overwhelming face of a debased society? If so, then perhaps the library can become proactive for once and speed up the process of our society’s decline.
    And also, librarians are not amoral, they are immoral.

  6. annoyed more often then not says:

    Parents are responsible for what their children check out at the library. If the parent doesn’t like it, they should go with the kid to let him know what he can and cannot check out. Libraries are not babysitters nor are moral compasses.

  7. Peanut says:

    AL, i’m pretty sure a 14 yr old seeing Sharon Stone’s vajayjay isn’t the reason why half the population are on anti-depressants.

    If anything, that would take someone off anti-depressants.

  8. Joe Da Bartender says:

    “Parents are responsible for what their children check out at the library. If the parent doesn’t like it, they should go with the kid to let him know what he can and cannot check out. Libraries are not babysitters nor are moral compasses.”

    That is what I tell the police when they come in and find underage drinkers in my bar.

  9. Amoral Librarian says:

    AL, it sounds like you’ve had nothing but bad experiences with men. I’ve heard it posited that you were actually a man posing as a woman. From this post, it seems evident that you are not a man, but a woman, unless of course, you’re crafty enough to feign man-bashing as a way to further the mystery. And, for the record, I’m intimate with both hands.

  10. AL says:

    You must be a new reader, Amoral Librarian. I’ve been pro-men the past several months.

    And I’m sure your hands are very proud of you.

  11. Happily Corrupted by Rock n' Roll says:

    Separation of Church and State, anyone? It’s not for a government agency (with the help of a board of some anonymous people paid by the major film studios)to decide what is or is not morally acceptable. What is eroding our society is a lack of personal responsibility.

  12. Mr. kkKat says:

    ALA Library Bill of Rights Section Five:

    V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

    It has always intrigued me how age is in there. It seems counterintuitive, as we know parents wish to have a set of rules for their children that is different and more dictatorial and restrictive than the set of rules parents get to enjoy living under.

    It’s the old “you’re a kid, I’m an adult, and until you’re 18 you will do exactly what I say.” This parenting style really doesn’t work that well anymore, since spnking and striking children has been turned into assault, of course, but it is still a major facet of childrearing in the US.

    I have further been intrigued since a very young point in my life how the U.S. Constitution somehow does not extend to minors. There is nothing in that document stating that the first amendment much less the rest of the documents do not extend to minors. What that document says it that these are the rights for all Citizens.

    ALA is the amoral piece bridging the gap in individual rights and persoanl freedom. It is very Liberal, but then so is the US Constitution and the BOR if you take the time to actually sit down and read it.

    Don’t mind the kids though, if they aren’t getting it at the library they will get it from someone else – where there’s a restricted demand, there’s always a black market.

    I’m Kat!

  13. Happily Corrupted by Rock n' Roll says:

    And the movie theaters do NOT have to comply with the ratings system. The system is voluntary.

  14. AL says:

    Separation of church and state? How did we get there? Unless it’s the Church of the MPAA. So you’re saying the Church is the font of morality?

  15. Elisa says:

    I agree with poster #6.

    However, in bookstores, they won’t sell adult magazines (particularly those with outer plastic covers) to those under age 18.

  16. Scott says:

    I agree with annoyed more often, it is the parent’s job to screen their children’s viewing and reading habits. It should not be the responsibility of the library staff. And it really is the staff. Not that many librarians work a circulation desk. Too many parents these days want to cede their parental responsibilities and then blame someone else when their child misbehaves, breaks the law, or engages in some sort of behavior of which the parent does not approve. If you have children at home then it has to be about your children, not about you or your career. This really comes down to trust, and if as a parent, you do not trust your kids, then you take responsibility personally to see that their behaviors meet your standards.
    Movie ratings are indeed voluntary and are pretty much useless. Keep in mind that the movie, “The Breakfast Club” was rated “R” when it is released and that movie now shows, unedited, on almost any television channel throughout the day. It is really a very benign film. As for the ratings- s#x and nudity seem to trigger more restrictive ratings I find those to be far less troublesome than the pervasive violence that is so prevalent in many films.

  17. Angry Librarian says:

    I am not your child’s parent. I am not a babysitter. If you don’t want your child to check something out, then do your job and WATCH YOUR CHILD. Go to the library with them or don’t sign for their library card.

    No, that’s too easy. Let’s make the librarians add extra layers of crap because we’re too **** lazy to do our jobs as parents.

    Let’s let the librarians be the moral arbitrators of our society, because it’s so much easier to complain when we disagree with them.

    Of course, in my library, kids aren’t allowed to check out ANY movies, so it’s a moot point.

  18. Mr. kat says:

    There are a number of people in this country who like to treat the Constitution and the bill of rights as Adult Privelege. However, the items covered in these documents are not expressed as Priveleges: they are the expressed as Rights that are to be extended to all US Citzens.

    It’s amazing how hard it is for adults to get simple things like teaching Respect and Reponsibility to their kids. Really, these two items fixed 99% of the problems. Kids have to respect their parents, but that is a two way street – parents have to respect their kids as well.

    This is where responsibility comes in to play. If a parent teaches personal responsibility, then kids can handle more mature ideas at a younger age.

    The fact of the matter is that a large number of people [adults] are grossly over-perverted and barely above the maturity level of many of the childish behaviors they teach their children NOT to do. This can be evidenced by the High Schoolish environemtns that exist in many of our work places where cattiness, rumor milling, and other such behavior occurs as easily as it did on the grmmar school playlot.

    Absolutely Amazing…BLAH!!!

  19. Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries.org says:

    Mary Minow’s argument as presented by the AL sounds like Deborah Caldwell-Stone’s argument (made in the Illinois Library Ass’n publication), which is libraries may not follow the MPAA ratings since they come from a third party private organization. And the American Libary Association is not a third party private organization?

  20. Public Library says:

    Re: “Parents are responsible for what their children check out at the library. If the parent doesn’t like it, they should go with the kid to let him know what he can and cannot check out. Libraries are not babysitters nor are moral compasses.”

    “That is what I tell the police when they come in and find underage drinkers in my bar.”

    If you have a lot of parents who drop their twelve-year-olds off at your bar, leave them for hours expecting you to supervise them, and then don’t come pick them up in the cold when you close, then maybe this would be a helpful analogy.

  21. Public Library says:

    Actually, reading the original article, this is a non-issue. None of this appears to have been based on a complaint from a parent (nor was it in my library system, when we implemented a similar policy). Parents who have the will to monitor their children’s library check-outs already have plenty of means to do so, which they were already using. Parents who don’t care already don’t care, and aren’t supervising their kids. As a side note, lots of parents want to use their kids’ cards to check out R-rated movies for themselves (and are either blocked for fines, or want to circumvent check-out limits). Every R-rated movie I see in the theater is full of little kids brought by their parents. Making libraries responsible allows some people to feel self-righteous, but it’s not going to fix any underlying problems.

  22. Joe Da Bartender says:

    “If you have a lot of parents who drop their twelve-year-olds off at your bar, leave them for hours expecting you to supervise them, and then don’t come pick them up in the cold when you close, then maybe this would be a helpful analogy.”


    Actually, because I have a restaurant along with my bar, a lot of parents do leave their kids to their own devices. So, I guess I can follow the public librarians lead and let these young whippersnappers suck up all the beer and martinis they want, after all, they have equal rights.

  23. Scott says:

    The analogy of a bar and drinking just doesn’t hold up. It is illegal for a bar owner to serve alcohol to someone underage. Children’s reading and viewing choices are up to their parents.

  24. a says:

    Alcohol is a controlled substance; Intellectual freedom is not.

  25. Brandon says:

    Or a better analogy would be a public house where the proprietors and select patrons may at their discretion declare various liquids alcohols prohibited to others, regardless of actual chemical makeup. It’s intellectual freedom as a game of assholes and presidents. What a concept! Is there a league? Where do I sign up?

  26. Idiot Poster says:

    Gotta love the LJ and their commitment to free speech on the Internets and their blog comments section.

    sigh

  27. Idiot Poster says:

    me again, sorry.

    My point being that LJ and librarians in general don’t see any problem with kids reading books tell them how to f*ck up their lives but say anything slightly off base here and it doesn’t get posted.

    What the f*ck is up with that?

  28. Detached Amusement says:

    I can’t help but remember a woman who had set up a display at the ALA National Convention, at the Palmer House, In Chicago, where she was marketing electric vibrators. I kid you not. There were umpteen dozens of tables with books and media, an related library things, and this woman is selling vibrators.

  29. sidney says:

    Perhaps she had a Velveteen Rabbit.

  30. Dr. Seuss says:

    Or maybe a “Hop on Pop”.

  31. Library Cynic says:

    My point being that LJ and librarians in general don’t see any problem with kids reading books tell them how to f*ck up their lives but say anything slightly off base here and it doesn’t get posted.

    It’s called censorship.

  32. AL says:

    Library Cynic is as confused as ever. Do you work for the ALA, by any chance? They also don’t know what censorship is. You guys could have a great time getting yourself worked up over issues you can’t understand and feeling morally superior to your intellectual superiors.

  33. anonymous more often than not says:

    * All sorts of laws govern morality. Like the ones against murder. Just because an organized religion also prohibits murder does not mean that this is a violation of the separation of church and state.

    * Minors’ rights are restricted in all sorts of ways. They are not treated the same as adults in our society.

  34. Kat says:

    That’s just it though: right’s cannot be restricted. Priveleges CAN be restricted. Breathing, for example, is a right – it is not a privelege. Thosethings int eh BoR are Rights, not prieleges – they may NOT be abridged, restricted, or kept from any US Citizen.

    Regardless of what the people may say!!!

  35. annoyed at annoyed says:

    Dear Annoyed, have you considered retiring? Such bitterness…

  36. Library Cynic says:

    It’s funny how those who censor are the first ones to question another person’s moral standing.

  37. clear and open mind says:

    It’s just part of living in an open society. It’s her blog and if she wants to censor someone, she can. If you don’t want to be censored, don’t come back.

  38. AL says:

    “Those who censor.” Good grief. Do you have a blog, Library Cynic? If you do, probably no one reads it. If you don’t understand how comment moderation works on blogs, perhaps you should go start a blog so you know what you’re talking about. Am I the government? Am I keeping you from publishing anything? Go write all you like, but me deleting irrelevant comments from my own blog can’t be considered “censorship” by anyone with even remotely common sense. Are you, as usual, just trying to find anything to complain about because you foolishly keep reading a blog you hate, or are you just plain stupid? It has to be one or the other. Still, whether it’s petty surliness or stupidity, I find your comments amusing.

  39. Library Cynic says:

    I think I’m just stupid. I’m going to quit reading the AL and go back to reading old Peanuts strips.

  40. Library Cynic says:

    Censors are mean! I’m going to tell on you!

  41. Library Cynic says:

    That last two posts was made by imposters.

    Irrelevant is a subjunctive term so if you are using that as a criteria for removing comments, then you are indeed practicing censorship. The term moderation does sound much more acceptable, but it’s the same thing in this case.

  42. AL says:

    Impostors? Perhaps I should “censor” them. Hasn’t anyone told you that you can’t just make words mean what you want them to mean? Apparently not, which is why you seem to think you have an argument based on your own peculiar definitions of words. I sometimes wonder what it’s like being so thick. Is it like being stoned ALL the time?

  43. Library Cynic says:

    For your information, it IS like being stoned all the time.

  44. Library Cynic says:

    Forgive my constant carping, AL. I don’t know why I keep reading your blog when I obviously hate you so much. I used to have a life, but finally everyone I know stopped hanging out with me because all I could talk about was your blog and what a mean censor you are. I don’t know why everyone else isn’t as upset and obsessed as I am.

  45. Morse says:

    Library Cynic is concerned about censorship when he should be concerned about grammar.

  46. Library Cynic says:

    No, I don’t want you to censor anyone. The imposters on this site is a technical problem, not a judgement issue. If you’re going to use the “irrelevant” basis for censoring comments, why not censor all irrelevant ones, not just the ones that disagrees with you?

  47. krispy kreme says:

    AL, I understand your frustration with people making illogical comments, but I recommend taking the high road, instead of using common insults like stupid and thick. It just brings you down to their level. More intellect please.

  48. Curious Librarian says:

    Library Cynic, how do you know what comments are deleted? Do you have some inside information the rest of us don’t?

  49. Library Cynic says:

    I know because I reload this page every five minutes so I don’t miss any ov the action and I often see comments that I like a lot that then get deleted.

  50. kat says:

    What good is the freedom to say something properly if you don’t have the freedom to say anything at all?

    Sorry, worrying about proper english is trumped by worrying about censorship.

  51. Morse says:

    Who cares what you have to say if you can’t say anything properly? The privilege of free speech demands the capacity for coherent speech. Besides, to speak of “censorship” on a blog’s comments is just dumb.

  52. Allison Angell says:

    You do know that Mary Minow is a lawyer, correct? So she’s familiar with the Constitution.

  53. AL says:

    So you say. Maybe you can point to the relevant portion of the Constitution.

  54. Library Cynic says:

    Library Cynic, how do you know what comments are deleted? Do you have some inside information the rest of us don’t?

    I’ve seen comments that were critical of the AL and then later that day, the comments were gone. I haven’t seen any comments deleted from the AL cheerleaders. I guess that’s just a coincidence, not selective moderating – aka censorship.

  55. her_welshness says:

    Library Cynic and annoyed-at-annoyed are keeping me amused this afternoon.

    Lordy lawks, if you were being censored on this site then the AL would delete all your comments. The AL has every right (as moderator) to delete posts which she deems to be inappropriate or stupid. Listen to what she is saying: if you don’t like what she has to write about then I’d recommend you do something else instead: there is bound to be something on the telly, its Xmas after all!

  56. her_welshness says:

    Library Cynic and annoyed-at-annoyed are keeping me amused this afternoon.

    Lordy lawks, if you were being censored on this site then the AL would delete all your comments. The AL has every right (as moderator) to delete posts which she deems to be inappropriate or stupid. Listen to what she is saying: if you don’t like what she has to write about then I’d recommend you do something else instead: there is bound to be something on the telly, its Xmas after all!

  57. Library Cynic says:

    The “if you don’t like it go somewhere else” defense is always the last resort for people who can’t come up with a clear explanation. Just because SOME of the comments are allowed, that doesn’t mean that censorship is not being performed. Of course she has every right to delete comments – this isn’t about righs, it’s about moral judgement.

  58. Library Cynic says:

    And another thing: if someone writes “u suk” in the comments and the AL deletes the comment, that’s censorship!

  59. libarian says:

    I think Library Cynic is an oppressed mass.

  60. Library Cynic says:

    That previous comment was made by an imposter.

  61. Vegans For Meat says:

    I think Library Cynic needs to find something better to do than refresh AL’s blog every 5 minutes. My god! child, are you okay? Does your library have an EAP service? If so, please for your own sake self-disclose!

  62. Library Cynic says:

    Only the naive believe everything they read. Most of the posts under my name are made by imposters.

  63. LIbrary Cynic says:

    That last comment was made my an imposter. It would be foolish of me to call anyone naive.

  64. Library Cynic says:

    That last post was made by an imposter. You could probably tell by the sutle insult.

  65. Morse says:

    Maybe Library Cynic is thinking of comments to another blog and is puzzled why they don’t show up here. I’ve yet to see a serious critical comment disappear, but then again I don’t refresh the page every five minutes.

  66. LL and the P of H says:

    Re Kat’s comment:

    “That’s just it though: right’s cannot be restricted. Priveleges CAN be restricted. Breathing, for example, is a right – it is not a privelege. Those things int eh BoR are Rights, not prieleges – they may NOT be abridged, restricted, or kept from any US Citizen.

    Regardless of what the people may say!!!”

    I come from a rural Western community where we really like our Second-Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

    So, by your standard, my eight-year-old should be able to walk into the local pawn shop and buy a .38 special, uncontested? Even an adult citizen residing in DC couldn’t do that until a few months ago. Clearly minors are treated differently when it comes to legal rights.

    Questions of what the framers meant in the Second Amendment aside — that would take us far off track, and there’s probably another forum out there more suited to that argument — the Bill of Rights does have some logical limitations.

  67. LL and the P of H says:

    Like AL, I’m not sure which Constitutional Right is being infringed here.

    The right of children (or anybody else) to read, listen to, or watch anything that they want with no restrictions? I must have missed that amendment.

    The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech. The movie makers have exercised that right in making and distributing the film without government interference or censorship.

    If you want to watch the movie, that’s a completely different issue. The work is publicly available. But the library is under no Constitutional obligation to provide it to you, any more than the video store or movie theater is.

    If I meet their criteria — member account, over 18, shirt, shoes, money — I can get the movie from Blockbuster. But lacking one of those crucial elements, they’re not obligated by some imagined Constitutional Right to lend me the video. If the library decides to let me or my eight-year-old check out Sharon Stone’s crotch, it’s a management decision, not a Constitutional issue.

  68. ReferenceGal says:

    Here’s a link to the article that explains why a public library’s use of MPAA ratings raises Constitutional concerns:

    http://www.ila.org/advocacy/pdf/ILA_Movie_Ratings.pdf

  69. ReferenceGal says:

    LL and the P of H said: “But the library is under no Constitutional obligation to provide it to you, any more than the video store or movie theater is.”

    It’s true that the First Amendment doesn’t compel a public library to purchase a particular film or book for its collection. But once a film or book is added to the public library’s collection, removing or restricting access to the film or book can violate the First Amendment, no matter what the age of the user. Go look up the Sund v. City of Wichita Falls court decision.

  70. AL says:

    But that document doesn’t address any Constitutional issues. It references several Supreme Court decisions not directly related to libraries, and spend a lot of time quote the Library Bill of Rights. Maybe the Library Bill of Rights is the “Constitution” librarians are always referring to! That would make a lot more sense. In addition, this mostly assumes that the libraries themselves would enact the restrictions. However, it notes that libraries are under control of laws. “Unless directly and specifically prohibited by law from circulating certain motion pictures and video productions to minors, librarians should apply the same standards to circulation of these materials as are applied to books and other materials.” In the case under discussion here, the library would be prohibited by law for circulating R-rated videos to minors without the parents’ consent. Most ALA reference to the Constitution is just smoke and mirrors.

  71. ReferenceGal says:

    As I read the article, it says federal courts have overturned laws and regulations adopted by government agencies that restrict children’s access to movies based on the ratings assigned by the MPAA. The courts did so on the grounds that using MPAA rating restrictions are a form of prior restraint, or censorship, that violates the First Amendment. Since public libraries are also government agencies subject to the First Amendment, the same legal rules apply to any policies or regulations adopted by (or imposed upon) a public library.

    Given that courts have overturned city ordinances restricting kids’ access to library books, I doubt a court would find a difference between a film or a book if a kid sued over the kid’s ability to borrow films from the library. (Go look up that Sund case I cited earlier.)

    And just because a lawmaker proposes a law, doesn’t mean the law is constitutional. The legal reporters are littered with court opinions overturning laws don’t pass constitutional muster.

  72. LL and the P of H says:

    Great article. That helps in clarifying what the ALA is thinking is on this.

    I do like the citations from case law, but it’s still important to note that what you’re getting here isn’t Constitutional law, it’s a persuasive (they hope) essay that cites case law selectively and editorializes on the citations in order to make the case for what AL derisively calls “ALA ideology”.

    I especially like this one:

    “As the Supreme Court noted in Erznoznik v. Jacksonville, ‘speech that is neither obscene as to youths nor subject to other legitimate proscription
    cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images a legislative body thinks unsuitable for them.’”

    Erznoznik v. Jacksonville is about a publicly visible drive-in theater having the right to show movies with potentially objectionable content. And whatever the applicability from Jacksonville to San Diego, all of the cases that I looked up — and several of the quotes in the text of the article itself — refer to the right of the government (“a legislative body”) or its agents (school boards, librarians, etc.) to determine what is suitable for minors, or others, to view.

    In the San Diego case, we are neither talking about public screening of the films in question nor a government body making the decision as to what is or is not appropriate.

  73. LL and the P of H says:

    San Diego County is merely proposing to help parents out by abiding by their decision of what is appropriate, not for everybody’s kids — that was the problem in Island Trees v. Pico — but for their own children.

    And the MPAA just happens to be a convenient way to block out a particular type of potentially offensive material. They’re using the MPAA rating system because it’s practical, not because it’s authoritative. It doesn’t absolve parents of a responsibility to look at what their kids are getting from the library — you can find violence, nipples, and swearing in PG-13 movies, even some PGs, if that’s what you’re looking for, not to mention what you can find in BOOKS! — but it makes the parents’ job a little easier.

  74. LL and the P of H says:

    And I don’t know if this is the case everywhere, but when I sign my son up for a library card locally, I have to sign off as the responsible party. It’s really an extension of my account. I should have some say over what can be checked out with that account.

    Last time I checked, Abe Lincoln’s hope of preserving government “for the people” was still alive and well. So let the government in San Diego County serve its people. If you live there and want to check out Basic Instinct, or want to let your kid check out Basic Instinct, this policy change doesn’t hurt you in any way.

  75. Shelley B. says:

    Checkout restrictions should be secondary to parents actually coming to the library to teach their children what is acceptable content or not. Children learn nothing if the parents are not there to teach them it. I also oppose library checkout policies that impose content regulations on teenagers. Yes — teenagers explore controversial content that their folks may not like them to read. So what? It would be safer for teenagers to explore things by reading books than by “experimenting” in more “real life” ways. By reading about things and imagining them — teenagers can then have enough of an experience of them that they may not need the real life experience — or the real-life trouble.

  76. LL and the P of H says:

    And if parents in San Diego County agree with you, Shelley, then they can let their kids check out R-rated movies.

    If they don’t agree with you, though, it’s their right to be the parents. Isn’t that what you’re asking for, parents who are willing to take some responsibility?

    Just as you and I don’t have a right to restrict what someone else’s kid can or cannot check out, you and I also don’t have the right to dictate to parents that their children should be allowed to check out R-rated movies, especially when a reasonable and simple solution can accomodate their wishes without infringing on anyone else.

  77. LL and the P of H says:

    Looking over Sund v. Wichita, the decision focuses on three key points:

    1. I don’t have the right to determine what is appropriate for someone else’s kid.

    2. Removing materials from their intuitive place in the library to put them somewhere more “appropriate” places an undue burden on patrons who might try to find them.

    3. Allowing complaints and petitions to dictate what the library keeps or doesn’t keep on the shelves puts an undue burden on the library.

    San Diego’s proposed policy violates none of these.

    It doesn’t remove items from the library. It doesn’t move them to some obscure or protected location. It doesn’t allow me to keep your eight-year-old kid from watching people pretend to copulate or disembowel each other with special effects.

    It merely allows me to exercise what the court in Sund speaks of as “the right to direct the upbringing of one’s children” by keeping my kid from watching it.

    The reason for MPAA ratings is obvious. It reduces the burden on the library. There’s a clear set of criteria: If it’s R-rated, you can disallow it on your kid’s card.

    The proposed system doesn’t weed out everything that might be potentially objectionable. It doesn’t make the library responsible for parenting my kid. That’s still my job.

    The policy also doesn’t invite the Thought Police to review and protest everything in the library.

    And those are all good things, IMO.

  78. ReferenceGal says:

    Per the newspaper article, San Diego “would require parents to mark a box indicating whether their child could check out R-rated DVDs and videos from the county’s 33 libraries.” If that means a minor can’t check out any movie rated R without parental permission, the San Diego scheme goes beyond aiding parents and sounds very much like a government restriction on minors’ access to films based on their content – just like the MPAA rating restrictions that were overturned on First Amendment grounds by the court decisions cited in the ILA Reporter article.

    That goes far beyond “supporting parents” – it’s restricting what every kid can borrow because some parents have such faith and trust in the MPAA rating system that they believe no one under 18 should see an R rated film – and believe as well that their choice should govern everyone else’s kid.

    It’s one thing to have a policy that allows an individual parent to approach the library about restricting their own kid’s access to R rated films; it’s another thing altogether for a government agency or legislative body to restrict access for minors as a default, based on an outside ratings system. Courts have overturned such laws.

  79. ReferenceGal says:

    LL, Sund also says that minors – even 3 & 4 year olds – have First Amendment rights that the courts will protect (a proposition that has been much derided on this page.)

    And Sund also makes clear that allowing complaints and petitions to dictate what the library keeps or doesn’t keep on the shelves isn’t just an “undue burden” – it’s also a violation of the First Amendment, even when the result is “merely” restricting access for kids.

    Thus Minow’s warning in the article that any policy would need to default in favor of access in order to comply with the First Amendment.

  80. AL says:

    Since no one has a first amendment right to watch any videos at public expense, I don’t see how this has any relevance to 3-4 year-olds. The ALA loves to talk about free speech and the Constitution, but they never connect those two good things to anything that libraries do. Renting videos at your local public library is NOT a Constitutional right, and it has nothing to do with free speech.

  81. Mr. Kat says:

    I come from a rural Western community where we really like our Second-Amendment right to keep and bear arms. So, by your standard, my eight-year-old should be able to walk into the local pawn shop and buy a .38 special, uncontested? Even an adult citizen residing in DC couldn’t do that until a few months ago. Clearly minors are treated differently when it comes to legal rights.

    You must remember that at one time Minorities and even women were also not allowed to have the rights set out by the Constitution. It only took 200 years for that mess to be staightened out!

    Yes you are correct. It does give children the right to hold and bear arms as any other CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES. Obviously many people will have a problem with this because it gives a child equal footing against an adult. The only way to prevent an ugly situation is through education on matters of responsibility and respect. Through this education children will choose not to carry arms just as they choose not to have $ex.

    I lived through the 80s – we went from a “Beat the Children” society to a “Beat the parents in court” society in only 20 years. It’s only a matter of time before kids have equal rights as adults do. Mind you, those things that are priveleges [alchohol!] and not rights will be kept away from them!!

    I will state the purpose of the second amendment in a quick and concise manner: The purpose of the second amendment is not for deer hunting or recreational shooting; the second amendment exists to keep the Governemtn Fearful fo the people, so that if the governement ever steps out of line the people will be there to stand up and declare “NO!” and the government will have to listen. this is the only way we have to Enforce that our government remains For, By and Of the People.

    The real special part of the second amendment is that it has been test: Look up Shay’s rebellion under the Articles of COnfederation. Even after this great event in our history we kept it as part of our rights – and for good reason!! [Yes, I DO believe I have a RIGHT to have a Howitzer in my back yard - it is an ARM and I have a right to hold and bear it!!!]

  82. Mr. Kat says:

    Somehting more to consider;

    the idea of “Minor” used to be anyone up tot he age of 12. after 12 People were considered Young adults. it was not until the 1930′s when the labor unions pushed for the illegalization of anyone under 16 from working by requireing them to be in school.

    Before that time period you had gunslingers and whiskey shooters of any age starting from 13 on up. If you were old enought o work, as the line went, you were old enough to drink!

    It is intersting to see how our coulture has been backtreading on itself as the people get less and less mature.

    And the religious crap – stow it. Modern religious importance owes itself to a little revival movement back in the 1950′s that included adding the line “under God” to the pledge of allegiance.

    Nowadays, of course, you don’t even have to say the pledge. You can sit out.

    It makes for fun conversation, but as they say, you never converse about religion, $3x, or politics in polite company!

    So now $3x has returned to the forefront in the form of R-rated movies and materials and library boards demanding that kids NOT check them out. haha…

  83. country lawyer says:

    Nothing more entertaining than listening to a bunch of librarians interpret the Constitution. Mostly wrong, but entertaining. Remember, you went to library school not law school.

  84. Forever Anon says:

    ReferenceGal said: “If that means a minor can’t check out any movie rated R without parental permission, the San Diego scheme goes beyond aiding parents and sounds very much like a government restriction on minors’ access to films based on their content…” It’s not a government restriction when the librarian quoted said that the parent had to actually check the box to have R-rated movies restricted. If the box was unchecked, NOTHING would be restricted. Therefore, it is not a government restriction on any materials. It is the PARENT’s choice.

  85. librarian says:

    Where are the parents? When do they take responsiblity for their own families. The library staff should not have to monitor everyone.

  86. librarEwoman says:

    There’s nothing in the Constitution that says parents have to monitor their kids.

  87. George, the Forty-Third says:

    Constituition?

    What are you people babbling about? We got rid of that moldy old rag in 2001.

    Get with the program or you are a terrorist.

  88. Library Cynic says:

    The previous post was a political statement that was completely irrelevant to the discussion. Let’s see if it gets removed due to “comment moderation”.

  89. Library Cynic says:

    The above comment is from me.

  90. Library Cynic says:

    My imposters are running out of good material.

  91. Library Cynic says:

    We follow the master.

  92. Cynical Librarian says:

    All of the previous comments are from the fake Library Cynic, who is obviously leaving stupid comments to make me look stupid.

  93. Library Cynic says:

    Cynical Librarian is obviously upset that he can’t come up with his own fresh ideas so he is trying to ride my coattails. Get a life dude!

  94. Cynical Librarian says:

    To the fake Library Cynic, I’m trying to focus these comments on the repressive dictatorship that is the Annoyed Librarian and the way her outrageous censorship is ruining my life, and you’re just playing games.

  95. sidney says:

    Library Cynic telling someone to “get a life.” That’s rich.

  96. Cy, the clinical Librarian says:

    Stop it.

    Don’t make me come over there.

  97. libarian says:

    Library Cynic complaining that someone is out of fresh ideas is even better.

  98. Library Cynic says:

    I may not be popular, but in the end I am representing all that is important to you in your personal and professional lives. If you allow censorship under the guise of “comment moderation” where do you draw the line?

  99. Libray Cynic says:

    The above comment may or may not have been made by me.

  100. Library Cynic says:

    Someday you’ll thank me for standing up to censorship, no matter what venue it takes.

  101. Library Cynic says:

    You had better thank me, or else.

  102. Library Cynic says:

    Library Cynic, I thank you!

  103. supportstaff says:

    Consider that Constitution referred to in San Diego County is the Constitution of the State of California. That Constitution protects library records as confidential and makes no exception for giving parents access to their children’s library records. If parents were allowed to restrict what items their children could borrow, this could be considered akin to telling parents what items their children borrow, which would be unconstitutional in California.

  104. EDUman says:

    Actually, the state is the font of morality. All hail the state.