Many libraries don't restrict what children check out


I'm agree with letting each parent decide what is right for their child. I don't want anyone else making that decision for me. If my child isn't allowed to eat candy after school, but is around children who are allowed, I expect my child to follow my rules and do what I expect of him, if he doesn't then it's his choice and he is responsible--- no one else, and I make no judgements about parents who allow candy. I think it's very bad for my child, but others can feed their child as they see fit. I don't think it's that different from items borrowed from the library. If a child understands and respects the rules then the parents don't have to interfere with others parenting.

... is the problem. If the movie theaters can make some attempt to abide by the guidelines out of respect to parents, law or not, if the video stores can abide by the guidelines out of respect to parents, law or not, its amazing that supposedly educated 'professional' librarians are so willing to toss a parent's concern aside.

Libraries and librarians walk a very fine line and I have to wonder how much discrimination training they get. Libraries (ideally) operate on the lofty principle of providing information to all persons and in recognition that you and you alone are responsible for exposing yourself to that information and what you do with it. Against that is the reality that putting information out in public also allows the for access to those who are not prepared for it. Filtering and censorship is based on the notion that because there are those who are not prepared for exposure to certain formats of presentation, then those formats must not be allowed.

>>It's their job to encourage responsible library use, intelligent collection development and circulation policies and reasonable standards for their community.

Two points here.

First. "Intelligent collection development" infers censoring that smutty material in print we've been discussing. That's a good thing. However ALA defends access to this same smut on the web side as an inherent right to information. This makes no sense.

Second. If ALA should defer to reasonable community standards, as you suggest, why don't they defer the filter issue to the local folks? Why the big ALA pronouncements and campaign denouncing filters for all libraries?

Filtering is a collection development issue. Shouldn't ALA stay out?

Librarians and library boards have consistently refused to restrict anyone's access--minor or not.

For numerous examples:


I haven't added my 2 cents because this board isn't the right forum for changing anything, but it would be interesting to know whether the opinions expressed here correlate with factors such as having children, age, etc.

In this story, I was struck more by the denial to the father of the right to see the child's circulation records, rather than by the child's right to check out R-rated materials (Great Western Dragon seems also to have picked up on this issue).

At a bare utilitarian minimum, the father should be able to know what items he is being charged for. If the laws of the state (any state) don't grant him that right, then the laws that are wrong.

Beyond that I note that parents have the primary responsibility for their children's education, and that they thus have authority commensurate to that responsibility, whatever the law may say. A parent should have been present when the child borrowed the videos, but nonetheless the father has a right to know what the child borrowed.

I had been discussing with colleagues in Management of Technical and Access Services class the issue of whether automated check-out is necessarily a good thing. Personally I do find it to be a pain as the far and few systems I have seen (the public libraries I frequent regularly have never pulled together funding for such so far) basically require interesting gyrations to get everything to line up right.

This may be an opportunity by which the use of automated check-out systems, at least in the realm of public libraries, may be restricted somewhat. I have some problems as to some of the costs involved in such things. Now may be a time when needs assessments start in this area of service provision.

...and I'm also a librarian.

We setup rules in the private sector to control access to all sorts of things to children, but somehow in the public realm of libraries it all gets tossed out the window.

Well a lot of people don't even know that the MPAA guidelines [the ratings system for movies] are just that... rules, not laws. The movie theaters and the video rental stores agree to abide by them but last I checked, there is nothing illegal about a 15 year old, say, checking out an R rated movie from the library. At our library we have a two-tiered system whereby children 12 and under have a "kid's card' that requires a parental signature and has certain limitations associated with it that can be set by a parent. 12+ [or it may be 13+] can check out anything the library has in its collection. Keep in mind that we have very few R rated movies in the first place.

My preference is to let parents decide what is and is not appropriate for their children. Our library's preference is the same. ALA's preference is likely the same. I would not mind my [hypothetical] kids reading anything that is in the library or watching any movie that is at our library, with some proper supervision and maybe discussion time afterwards. Trying to control what ideas children are exposed to is next to impossible. Helping guide them as they are exposed to new ideas is a crucial job for parents. I'm happier with our library being a setting for kids and teens to get information they need because I know that [with the exception of our Internet access which is an entirely other issue in this case] the material has been selected for usefulness, relevance and with some peer review, not because it's likely to sell the best or garner the most controversy.

I believe strongly that it's not ALAs job to determine what materials are "bad" for children. It's their job to encourage responsible library use, intelligent collection development and circulation policies and reasonable standards for their community.

That doesn't sound too bad. If you have some time, and notice this post, could you send me some info on this? I'm curious to know how it works.

[email protected]

I would think so. I have a brand new baby boy, only 6 weeks old. So yes I have children, but not of any age to check anything out. I was raised in a middle class home in a fairly conservative town. However, my parents never denied me anything to read. They would sometimes, rarely, deny me certain things to watch or listen to. Even then this was more the exception than the norm.

If I read anything they were at all uncomfortable with, we'd discuss it. I remember reading a book titled, I believe, How To Get More Out of Sex: Than You Ever Thought You Could at the tender age of around 8 to 10. While my mom and dad were a bit nervous about their son reading what amounts to a guide to sex, they never stopped me. But while I read the book, we'd discuss things in it. Result, when time came in high school for sex ed classes, I found that I knew more than the teacher about everything from STDs to multiple orgasm.

Doesn't mean I was all that popular with the ladies though. sigh

Anyhow, I grew up in an environment where reading was looked upon as a sacred right not to be denied to anyone. Thus I grew up in a very liberal place brimming with access to a multiverse of ideas and information. Result: I'm a voracious reader to this day, usually have six books going at any given time ranging in subject from sci-fi to mystery to non-fiction, and I consider myself to be at least fairly intelligent because of it. I learned more from reading than I ever learned in school.

So yes, demographic, children, and upbringing probably has a LOT to do with things. While I was raised in a "non-church-going Christian household," I wasn't forced into any religious opinion, which probably explains why I'm pagan.

So free access to reading? Yes. Liberal upbringing? Hell yeah.

Personally I have the preference that I want parents using libraries with their kids. I think Wil Manley has noted time and again that the way to draw in people is to sell to the kids who wind up causing their parents to come too.

I agree with the tiered access system. Academia is not much different than such a case. Undergraduates get a set borrowing period, graduate students get a longer borrowing period, and faculty get whole semesters (or more). If academia can come up with the notion of different patron types with different privileges, how difficult could it be for public libraries to do such.

I should note that there is a public library that indeed does just that. Jeff Swope of the James V. Brown> discussed the tiered access in place at his library as part of a YA discussion held during the northwest chapter meeting of the Pennsylvania Library Association.

If there is a will, a policy adopted, and technical services staff to implement it, I see no reason why Milwaukee could not have done something like that.

If some libraries and librarians insist on pulling stuff like this then it isn't terribly surprising if voters reject tax increases and bond measures for public libraries.

I appreciate your comment. I think there needs to be a clarification of the meaning of free speech. The library historically is the bastion and information provider for free speech. During the American revolution the written word was very powerful as it is today in spite of the INTERNET.
What about the civics lesson that teaches us that it is not free speech to yell fire in a crowded theater. Intellectual harm is just as bad as physical harm. If society needs to be sensitive to evolving modern life issues (gay issues, non-married couples living together, legalization of substances etc.) then it must be equally sensitive to family life, protection of children, awareness of the composition of the neighborhood or readership of the library.

"How far will libraries go?"

They'll go as far as they can until the public (the same "public" that is supposed to be part of the "public library") reins them in!!

For example, (from 2004-03-18: Mom on mission after kid exposed to porn at library - by Karen Goulart | The Patriot Ledger) ‘‘My daughter was very upset by the images she saw and it's very difficult to erase those images,'' Baker said. ‘‘It's evil that she's 12, she goes to a library and she's exposed to this.''

But when Baker complained, she was told that the library does not use Internet filtering software on its computers because of free-speech concerns.

Library trustee Roberta Stannard said the library doesn't want to come between patrons and information they may be seeking.

See for many other such hair-raising stories!!

Which leads to the matter that there may be a way and capacity to do such but without a will to do anything nothing will happen. Dr. Richard> wrote in Foundations of Library and Information Science about there being a problem with folks taking "the path of least resistance". It does seem that without a compelling need the library in Milwaukee is not going to do anything any time soon.

Our local theaters, owned by GKC, are going to start offering an R card, whereby parents can give authorization to their kids, 16 and under, to see R-rated movies without an adult. These people sound like librarians: "We are putting the decision back into the hands of the parents," said Hiede Cravens, marketing manager for GKC Theaters' home office in Springfield. More story>

That's what's so funny.

You are responsible for what your children access, not us.
We won't tell you what your children access, ask them.
You owe us for something that your child did.

I've have reconsidered my previous posts. If you want to give my children unlimited access to whatever you want (you're not the parent), then I'm no longer responsible if they destroy or fail to return materials.

A public library should reflect the community. Reading is vital to becoming an intelligent citizen and being a productive member of the community. I seem to recall from library school that branch libraries serve the public and their bibliographic needs. I don't think there would be a section on the Ku Klux Klan in an African American neighborhood. Why should there be materials in the library that do not reflect the bibliographic needs and interests of the community. Librarians are there to help educate the public in specific ways especially bibliographic literacy and encouragement of young readers. In my opinion it is not the librarian's duty to force materials that the overwhelming majority of the community finds offensive or obscene. Librarians serve and teach and don't dictate.

Yes, we too would like that information... (policy)

We find far too few libraries who use such common sense... Do you have any articles done by local news media on this? If so, we might like to do a "write-up" about you on

THANKS!! mailto:[email protected]

I've got a real problem with the library sticking the parent with the fees and then not giving the information out. That is ridiculous.

As an aside. You read that between the ages of 8 to 10? Even you called it a "tender" age, there is a reason for that. Although I am unfamilar with that specific title, I would suspect that it more of a "how to manual". I would think that most experts would agree that this title probably is not the best source in introducing an 8-10 year old child to world of sexual reproduction. For example, the "Wind Blowing Through the Mountains" or the "Three Finger Italian Method" are probably inappropriate for most in the 8-10 crowd.

Very easy. And something I assumed many libraries already did.

As a former systems librarian, I know all major ILS platforms support this. Essentially this is done by creating patron types, item types, and locations. This establishes a circulation matrix that determines the loan rule.

There seems to be confusion between citizen rights and common sense. There is an old joke. A revolutionary makes a speech which states that come the revolution we will eat strawberries and cream. A person raises his hand and says I don't like them. The speaker replies come the revolution you will eat them whether you like it or not. I believe that this conversation and the issue of circulation of materials to minors will go on and it needs to be discussed in a wider forum with some kind of resolution. Political correctness and sensitivity goes both ways. In a democracy we can have different views. We can agree to disagree but in the end we will respect what is commonly agreed is best for all.

Fang, you're right. My opinion is that the fuzzy line of acceptable/noacceptable is too high in most cases, and diehard 'information access' people won't even admit that any limitations are acceptable.

The middle of the road to me seems that parents should have the right to give their children library cards that either have limited access or full access to movies, at the least.


My point is, I can understand your extreme reaction to X or higher rated movies in a library, but I cannot understand such an extreme position on "ALL" R-rated movies? Surely, you can understand that?

Restricting information is fine under the right circumstances IMHO, but come on! Show me an R-rated movie that would be considered truly informational that is currently on a library's shelves. I double dare you;)

There aren't many good reasons for libraries to carry R-rated stuff, are there? Such videos may be popular, but are they informational?

So you're saying you would like the ALA to choose what your child can check out and what they can't?

  What if my child is different than yours? or my values are different than yours?

It doesn't make any sense to have ALA decide what's right for my child when I can do that myself and not affect everyone elses right to decide for their own child. I for one do not want someone else deciding what is and isn't appropriate for my child, thanks anyway! Sounds too much like big brother.

Are you REALLY comparing books and movies to drugs and alcohol?

Tell me what are the redeeming qualities of drugs and alcohol? What intellectual benefit to the offer people in general?

this isn't apples an organges it's apples and organgutans!

>>It's more than that, it's getting of this ALA high-horse and realizing that children are not the same as adults.


I remember that when I was first issued a library card at age 10 it restricted my borrowing to certain areas. Why do we even have to get into the debate about appropriate information. The anti-tobacco people have public service announcements indicating that stores that sell cigarettes to minors should be cited. There are also ads about alcohol. Why is information different? Parents have an important role but influences on children make the job extremely difficult. Why is there an aversion to using the same logic for information as for alcohol, smoking, and drugs? Our predecessors in the profession understood that reasoning. I once had a professor who said that one should not go into a hospital ward to see how healthy they are.

Here in Washington state, state law makes it illegal to divuldge information about a library account and what's checked out to it. (RCW 42.17.310) So the idea that a library won't tell a parent what's out on a child's card is not a new one by any stretch. In some states, this isn't just policy, it's the law.

However, we do have a policy that, when the account goes overdue or owes money, then the parent can find out what's going on with the card. While some people may disagree with this practice, and while we could probably sit here all day and argue the pros and cons, that's simply the way the laws tell us to conduct business.

Going back to the child and the R rated videos, I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It is not our responsiblity to act as parent. Yes I know, the child couldn't see the film in the cinema, they couldn't buy it from some stores. In those instances, the businesses have taken it upon themselves to act as a parental agent for children. If they want to do that, fine, but I don't see how it solves anything.

Parent's should know what their children have out on their card. And if the parent in question didn't know that the kid checked out R rated videos, then that parent didn't take the time or energy to ask his kid what they'd checked out. The law states that a library can't give out patron information, it doesn't say anything about what information a parent can demand at home. Lemme tell ya somethin', when my kid is old enough to check out stuff, I'm going to ask him first before I try going to the library. I'll find out if he's lying. But then again, if parents actually, you know, go to the library with their kids, they may learn something. Not only about what their child checks out, but about their interests.

And let's face reality for a moment. Sometimes, trying to come between a kid and what they really want is like coming between a freight train and its intended destination. When I was young, my parents didn't think I was quite ready for Richard Pryor's comedy. Solution: Go to a friend's house and listen to theirs. Granted, you can only do so much, but most parents don't seem to be doing enough.

Anyone who's seen my past post knows that I agree parents are responsible for their children, it doesn't help one bit when organizations don't give a damn either. Whatever happened to all that liberal hugging that went on after Mrs. Clinton's "It Takes a Village"? If this logic holds (You're responsible, ultimately), Anonymous, then:

Don't sue the cigarette companies for cancer.
Don't blame McD for getting fat or coffee that is too hot.
Don't blame the gun manufacturers or the right to bare arms for murder.
Don't sue.

Libraries are an EXTENSION of the community, not some place high on Mount Olympus with the 'gods'. As Fang said, "Selection, people! It's a middle ground!". It's more than that, it's getting of this ALA high-horse and realizing that children are not the same as adults. They don't need access to the same information, they don't have the same rights, and it does take a community (at times) to assure their proper development.

Again, I need to have some coffee before I post on


The only monitoring of material that makes sense is the PARENTS monitoring THEIR OWN CHILD. You gave birth to them, you watch them. Some parents don't mind if their child reads adult books or watches any movie the library has, are the librarians supposed to track which family cares and which doesn't? That's ridiculous. You watch your own children, and when they lie to you and break your rules, don't blame the library. They are your children.

For crying out loud, this is absolutely asinine. You don't have to card a twelve year old to know he's signing out inappropriate materials and should a bring a letter from home giving him permission to do so. Some librarians obviously take far too seriously the principle that they are there to promote access to information.

Selection, people! It's a middle ground!

I would never sue anyone for my own choices. I don't think you get it at all, if ALA starts making decisions about what is right for children in general they are usurping the right of the parent to decide! I don't want other people deciding what is appropriate for my child. My child is unique, as is each child and the person in the best position to decide how something will effect a child is their parent. How could anyone possibly draw a line that would satisfy every parent and benefit everyone. It's a fruitless endeavor to try.
ALA does realize that children are not the same as adults, look at the effort they put into research on literacy, and their advocacy of quality literature for children. They spend endless numbers of hours working on emergent literacy, and providing the best in books for children.
It isn't the ALA that is promoting adult materials to children, but if the children come in and get it themselves are librarians to assume that it is without the approval of the parent?

  Many children pick up books FOR their parents, should libraries stop allowing that? What about reading adult fiction in the library building? Should librarians take books away from interested children? Which adult books? Jane Austen? Tom Clancy? Stephen King? Which of those authors are appropriate for 12 year olds? Which aren't? Do you really want someone else deciding for you? It doesn't make any sense to me.
And by the way this is just my opinion, which I'm entitled to as you are yours, I just can't see what exactly you would like ALA or libraries to do, and how it could possibly work.

>>So you're saying you would like the ALA to choose what your child can check out and what they can't?

Let's start with ALA being honest.

See my posts in Tangled Web. Then we'll talk.

I believe the conversation is about "R" rated movies, not "XXX" rated movies -what do you mean there aren't many good reasons for a library to carry R-rated stuff!? Are you telling me you can't think of a single "valuable" (loaded word) R-rated movie!?

"[...] What people don't understand is that children do grow up and become adults and that's when they'll need the stuff they should be learning in childhood but are largely forbidden to."

Absolutely. i think that what libraries and the ALA are trying to do is to provide information while not acting as parents. We cannot decide what is right for every child, that is the parents responsibility. The world is brutal and the only way to prepare for it is education. Parents need an active role in this, libraries cannot shoulder the burden of defining what is right and wrong for every child.

FWIW, when I work in a video store we gave anyone could join to rent movies regardless of age. However, if you were under 18, your Parents or guardian had to approve in person that you were allowed to rent r-rated materials. It solved the "How could let him/her rent this?!?!" arguments pretty quickly.

Here's the problem.....public libraries listen to ALA and the Information Bill of Rights like they are an extension of the constitution. Literacy is only part of it. We setup rules in the private sector to control access to all sorts of things to children, but somehow in the public realm of libraries it all gets tossed out the window.

Well, just wait until some parent's group or individual decides to sue the public libraries like they do private enterprise(s). It's a nightmare that is waiting to happend.

If I meant XXX I would have typed it.

[...] children are not the same as adults. They don't need access to the same information, [...]

Au contraire, they do need access to the same information, what should be tempered is the presentation format. Robie Harris's books are acceptable for 12 year olds, showing them a tape of a live birth in full gory detail probably isn't. Plus, we shortchange children when we say there are things they don't need to know because they are children. This was pretty much the same excuse for denying women and blacks the vote. What people don't understand is that children do grow up and become adults and that's when they'll need the stuff they should be learning in childhood but are largely forbidden to.

Woodstock. (Which was, incidentally, the flick involved in the federal court ruling 30-some years ago that governmental bodies may not use MPAA ratings to restict minors' access to films.)

Isn't that where parental influence should come in?

BTW those 'examples' you cite, any studies to back that up? No, because there is no causal proof that in 'information' caused the childs actions. More likely it's a complicated combination of lack of parental involvement, psychology, and many other factors.

Passion of the Christ
Nineteen Eighty Four
Saving Private Ryan
Wind Talkers
DC 9/11: Time of Crisis

Informational is anything that imparts knowledge you didn't have before... I think any of the above could be considered informational to those who weren't intimately familiar with the subjects they portray. and those are just a few, there are many more.....

We are talking about harmful affects. Young children are very curious. They want to imitate what they see and read. Just look at some of the heinous crimes committed by children. If you don't think materials can influence, there are countless examples in history to the contrary. The pen is mightier than the sword. There are books that are very redeeming and drugs and alcohol are not redeeming at all, however the point here is how a child with their own knowledge and maturity level process the materials they read and observe.

We have policies that apply to each level of card - juvenile, ya, adult, etc... They are assigned by age, but a parent can override that and assign their child a higher level of card in order to be able to check out "older" material. This is put into place for PARENTS to make the decision for their CHILDREN. Once the child has the level card their parents want for them, we will check out to them the materials as allowed by that card. I really feel that this is a good solution to such a situation.

How far will libraries go? The library is one of the last places where families can increase their knowledge. It should be a place where materials are given to children that are age appropriate. Isn't that part of professional resposnibility? This issue ties into INTERNET filtering as well. The library has joined the assault on the family that chooses to maintain a life style that does not live by "anything goes." Materials are purchased to promote agendas, unlimited use of the INTERNET is permitted to promote agendas, now circulation of materials is also used to promote agendas. The agenda promoted is that it is ok to expose children to materials that satisfy their hunger for alternative materials. It is built on the assumption that it is the parents job to teach values. That is certainly true, but circulation rights to materials that compromise parental guidance is professionally irresponsible.
Could it be that society and unfortunately libraries are trying to let children know that an open society accepts everything without question. Is this a lesson that is good or does it further emphasize that every depravity is ok. Do the public libraries want to discourage family usage?
Why can't they use at least the same dsicretion that family oriented video stores use?