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.