Responsibility for the children


Mary Ann Meyers has written an excellent piece on
childrens privacy.

\"Last Thursday I posted a response to Rory
Litwin\'s \"Editor\'s Note\" in
the current issue of *Library Juice*.
writing about intellectual freedom Rory posed
questions about \"freedom
from information.\" His insights provoked a response
from me, in part,
about the question of the rights of children. In addition,
because of
recent PubLib discussions about visual sex in libraries
and about the
ALA wrestler poster, I have been thinking about the
library profession\'s
stance (if any) on the differences (if any) between
textual and
graphical information. So I was glad to see this posting
about PamForce\'s article on

She goes on to share her ideas on
children\'s privacy, and responds to the original article
by Pam Force.

I laud Pam Force\'s efforts to address the problems of
access and
responsibility in regard to children, in particular, and to
patrons and library staff. I, too, feel there should be
clarification on these subjects. I don\'t take a stance on
whether Pam\'s
\"graduated privacy rights\" are a good idea or not, but
she has obviously
put some earnest thought into her suggestion.

My principal interest is to point out in Pam\'s article
assumptions that
many of us share. I do not necessarily share these
viewpoints or
\"agree[ments]\" as stated and would welcome the
chance to hear others\'
opinions on them. Please read Pam\'s entire article at
the url Blake
Carver posted in the original posting below, because I
have excerpted
quotes out of context for consideration and discussion:

\"Most people would agree that adults as a whole have
a responsibility to
protect children from harm. If we must protect children
from harm, then
we must also guard the privacy of children from
invasion by those with
intent to harm.\"

--I am not sure that I agree that \"adults as a whole\"
have any
responsibility to protect children *except* from
*immediate danger*; nor
can I assume who has intent to harm. I do agree that
we all need a
mechanical method to safeguard our personal private
and contact
information from those who might exploit it. I see a lot
neighborhood kids doing things that have the potential
for harm (from my
point of view) but I do not think other neighbors or
parents believe as
I do.

\"Timberland Regional Library (TRL) system in
Washington state adopted\"
an Internet access policy that disavows any library
responsibility for
what children may view and places that responsibility
on the parents\'
shoulders. Pam Force writes:

\"Of course, this then means that those bent on
wrongdoing practically
have free
license to do so at the public library.\"

--No, it implies that people may choose to view
websites that contain
images or information that parents may not want their
children to see.
People who choose to view things that others object to
seeing are not
necessarily \"wrongdoing.\" From my point of view
\"seeing\" or \"reading\"
is not \"wrongdoing.\" Personally, I am hard-pressed to
think of an
instance where I think what people read or see or think
is wrong, as
opposed to what they actually DO to act upon what they
read, see, or
think. \"Wrongdoing\" is behaving badly. Sometimes
wrongdoing is
legally wrong behavior--the doing of a crime.
Sometimes wrongdoing is
morally offensive behavior--a sin according to some
religious or
spiritual sense. Sometimes wrongdoing is rude
behavior--a violation of
unwritten, somewhat agreed-upon (but not necessarily)
codes of public
conduct. It may be that some adults, when pulling up
or violent images at the library, are *rude* in not
considering the
sensibilities of others.

\"While recognizing that the brunt of responsibility for
minors falls
upon the parents or guardians, we must also recognize
that there is a
real need for paternalistic action on the part of the
library and staff
in some cases. When a parent fails to provide
appropriately paternal
action, then someone needs to step in.\"

--I\'m not sure of what kinds of actions are to be required
librarians. What activities require policing? Who gets
to decide what
is \"appropriately paternal action?\" In the past when I\'ve
children not to climb the stacks (physical danger to
child and property
damage to library), parents have been annoyed at my
interference. I
realize some libraries have an unwritten policy of
encouraging their
staff to police what people access on the Internet, but I
think this may
be stepping into a real rat\'s nest.

\"Yet we are all aware that certain kinds of information
can be very
damaging to young minds.\"

--No, I\'m not aware of that. Is there agreement on
\"certain kinds of
information. . .damaging. . .young minds\"? There are
probably some
studies funded by interest groups to show this, but is
there a bias
informing their research? Or is there research
supporting this
statement and would that research be honored by
people of diverse
religious and political beliefs?

\"Finally, we must recognize that as a society we have
an obligation to
protect those who are unable to protect themselves,
and that this must
be done with the utmost respect for the privacy and
humanity of those
whom this obligation encompasses.\"

--I don\'t believe in this obligation as stated. I believe a
*citizen* *
may* have an rationale to *offer* protection because of
their own
religious or moral sensibilities, or because of a desire
to help create
a strong society that will protect their own self-interests
as a
citizen. My obligations to others is informed by my own
religious or
non-religious moral code or by my desire to help myself
in the process.
Here is an area in which I fully connect into Rory
Litwin\'s wish for
\"freedom *from* information\": Please, please release
me from the
so-called good intentions of the do-gooders of this
world. The older I
get the more I see the full meaning of \"The road to hell
is paved with
good intentions\" (that is, if I believed in any hell worse
than the one
humans create here on earth).

What do you think out there?

Mary Ann Meyers
[email protected]

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