Oct. 4, 2000
It's not likely that most people would let their children browse
in an "adult" bookstore. But have you ever considered the danger of
letting them browse in your local public library?
The American Library Association's conference held in Chicago in
July opened the window on how public libraries have changed. Here is
how some of the workshops and panel discussion topics were listed in
The program description of "Erotica in the Libraries" stated:
"Given that erotica is available in chain bookstores like Tower and
Borders, isn't it true that erotic fiction and pictures now fit within
the `community values' of at least some communities? This program will
move beyond debates about whether libraries should collect erotica to
an examination of what erotica a library could collect."
The panel discussion on "Freedom of Expression vs. Tolerance:
Exploring the Limits" produced a pro-gay "debate." One side loudly
condemned "hate speech" (i.e., any disagreement with the homosexual
lifestyle), while the other side defended the abstract right to utter
such speech but soundly criticized anyone who did.
The keynote speaker at the workshop on "Intellectual Freedom
Principles in an Academic Library" was C. James Schmidt, Professor of
Library and Information Science in San Jose, California. His thesis
was that unfiltered internet access should be available to everyone.
The focus of "Risky Business: Legal and Liability Issues to
Internet Access" was on creating strategies for libraries to circumvent
The workshop called "It's Our Bill of Rights Too! Children, the
First Amendment, and America's Response to Violence" was devoted to the
longtime ALA goal of making sure that children, no matter how young,
have access to everything in the library.
The ALA's own view of a public library's mission is no longer to
serve as a custodian of the literature of a great civilization. The
ALA sees itself as a radical change agent, presuming to change our
culture and our attitudes by using our tax dollars to control what
printed and internet information will be made conveniently available in
The ALA's "Catalyst for Change Award" this year was given to the
organization's immediate past president, Ann Symons. The award praised
her: "For actively and positively influencing . . . the initiation and
implementation of change . . . For continually being an inspiration to
others to be involved in the programs and projects of the Association
and to become change agents themselves."
The tone of the conference reflected the ALA's philosophy set
forth in its brochure called "Intellectual Freedom": "Censorship, like
charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end
The ALA's brochure further asserts: "When censorship is
attempted, not only is our constitutional right to seek and receive
information endangered, but also the very essence of our democratic
society put at risk." The ALA's definition of censorship is decidedly
skewed; to the ALA, censorship means any public criticism of how ALA
members are spending the public's tax dollars.
The ALA has developed the impudent assertion that librarians have
a constitutional right to give any materials, no matter how "adult" or
pornographic, to children of any age. Of course, there is no such
right to interfere with parental rights and there is no constitutional
right to spend the people's money.
Because of the vast quantity of porn on the internet and the speed
with which it pops up on the screen, parents, voters and public
officials are increasingly demanding filters on public library
computers available to children. The ALA used its July conference to
showcase its passionate resistance to any filtering of pornographic
sites on terminals used by children.
In addition to its phony argument that protections for children
are unconstitutional, the ALA argues that internet filters don't work
because they filter out non-pornographic sites, such as those dealing
with breast cancer, while allowing about 15 percent of undesirable
sites through anyway. However, a recent study at three public library
systems employing filters, Tacoma (WA), Dayton (OH) and Cincinnati
(OH), showed that legitimate sites come through more than 99 percent of
In 1999, the Chicago Public Library denied a request under the
Freedom of Information Act to reveal a three-month study on internet
use which the library claimed had found that only 5 percent of the
terminals were used to access pornographic sites. However, even this
figure would mean up to 30,000 half-hour porn-surfing sessions during
the slowest summer months.
Only about 1,000 of the 16,000 public libraries in America
currently use internet-filtering software, but citizen activism is
beginning to make a difference. Kathy Valente, founder of Citizens for
Community Values of Illinois (www.safeplace.net/ccv), was successful in
establishing a policy that requires all the library computer terminals
in Lansing, Illinois to be equipped with internet filters, and her
organization stands ready to help other local groups.