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Back to October Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 177 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS OCTOBER 2000

American Library Association:
Change Agents Promoting Porn
Kathy Valente
Kathy Valente
CHICAGO, IL - As the National Education Association delegates headed for home following their annual convention at McCormick Place in July, members of the American Library Association (ALA) were arriving for their own conference. According to observers, the ALA took the opportunity to reaffirm its opposition to filtering internet pornography on computer terminals in public libraries, even for children. This theme resounded throughout the conference, along with the advancement of homosexuality and resistance to Christian influence in American culture.

Kathy Valente, founder and executive director of Citizens for Community Values of Illinois (CCV), reports that the tone of the conference mirrored the ALA's philosophy as stated in its brochure Intellectual Freedom: "Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there."

"The conclusion is inescapable," says Mrs. Valente. "We can no longer entrust our children to the library for an afternoon." She charges that the ALA, formerly a preserver of American culture, has become a radical change agent, presuming to create this change with our tax dollars.

She cites as an example the ALA's "Catalyst for Change Award," which this year was given to the organization's immediate past president, Ann Symons. The award reads: " . . . For actively and positively influencing the profession's premiere association through the initiation and implementation of change within its organizational structure . . . For continually being an inspiration to others to be involved in the programs and projects of the Association and to become change agents themselves."

Workshops and Panel Discussions 
Workshop and panel discussion topics at the conference included: 
  • Erotica in the Libraries - The official description of the session read, "This program will move beyond debates about whether libraries should collect erotica to an examination of what erotica a library could collect."

    Mrs. Valente urges citizens to oppose the fact that the ALA is even considering sanctioning erotica in public libraries. She suggests contacting new ALA President Nancy Kranich, associate dean at New York University, 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012, phone 212/998-2447, fax 212/995-4070, email kranich@elmer4.bobst.ny.edu.

    ALA offices may be reached by email at ala@ala.org.

  • Freedom of Expression vs. Tolerance: Exploring the Limits — Mrs. Valente called this discussion "a bizarre, pro-gay debate," with loud condemnation of "hate speech" against gays on one side — "hate speech" being any disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle. On the other side were those who, while criticizing anyone who exercises such free speech, nonetheless defended the right of the individual to make such speech.

  • Intellectual Freedom Principles in an Academic Library — The keynote speaker at this session was C. James Schmidt, Professor of Library and Information Science in San Jose, California. Professor Schmidt believes that open and unfiltered internet access should be available. One recommendation made during the workshop was that internet terminals be placed in remote locations in public libraries and privacy screens installed. Observes Mrs. Valente, "our local libraries would become community peep shows."

  • Risky Business: Legal and Liability Issues to Internet Access — Committed to full internet access, the ALA focused this discussion on emphasizing First Amendment ideals and creating strategies for circumventing library obscenity laws.

  • It's Our Bill of Rights Too! Children, the First Amendment, and America's Response to Violence — The theme of this workshop was that kids have rights and should be allowed to express themselves.
  • Censorship  
    A small number of Christian book exhibitors received mixed reviews for their participation in the conference. Some librarians commented that the popular children's series titled Left Behind, of which two volumes made the Publishers Weekly list of best-selling children's paperback fiction in 1999, "would probably not make it to their library shelves because it is 'too Christian.'"

    This comment is particularly noteworthy because the ALA's Intellectual Freedom brochure 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."

    Many argue that the ALA's definition of censorship is skewed. On July 10, Family News in Focus reported that, when a Toledo (OH) man attempted to donate a book called Killer Angel, by respected Christian historian, Dr. George Grant, to three branches of his local library, all three returned it. The donor described the book as "an important biography" revealing little-known facts about the life of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. The libraries claimed they had "nowhere to put the book," although books favorable to Sanger are on the shelves. Steve Herb, chairman of the ALA's Intellectual Freedom Committee, claimed to be sympathetic, but said he "must defend the right of libraries to adopt their own selection process."

    "They practice what they preach only when it suits them," observes Kathy Valente. She notes that, in 1999, the Chicago Public Library denied a Freedom of Information request for the results of a three-month study on internet use which the library claimed found that "only 5%" of the terminals were used to access pornographic sites. Conservative estimates reveal that this could mean 30,000 half-hour porn-surfing sessions during the slowest summer months.

    Last year, Oregon librarian and nationally recognized defender of internet filtering, David Burt, conducted a six-month investigation with the Family Research Council which uncovered more than 2,000 documented incidents of library patrons (including children) accessing pornography, obscenity, and child pornography. Analysis of computer logs from just three urban library districts revealed thousands of unreported incidents, indicating that the 2,000 documented incidents are merely the tip of the iceberg.

    Private Organization 
    Writer Loralei A. Gilliam described her experience at the ALA's mid-winter conference in San Antonio in the March 2000 issue of the American Family Association Journal: "I came away amazed at a presumption that seems to underlie every [ALA] policy . . . that this private organization has the right to determine policy for the nation's public libraries."

    Gilliam reported that demonizing the use of internet filters dominated the conference. "Clearly," she wrote, "the ALA hardliners sense that voters and elected officials are becoming increasingly concerned about patrons' and employees' safety in libraries with unrestricted internet access."

    The ALA's chief argument against internet filters is that they don't work - that they filter out non-pornographic sites such as those dealing with breast cancer while allowing about 15% of undesirable sites through. However, a recent study at three public library systems employing filters - Tacoma (WA), Dayton, (OH) and Cincinnati, (OH) - revealed that legitimate sites come through more than 99% of the time.

    What Citizens Can Do 
    Unlimited access to internet porn in public libraries has resulted in criminal acts, rowdiness, indecent exposure, and trauma to children and adults who are unwittingly forced to view obscenity.

    Only about 1,000 of the 16,000 public libraries in America currently use internet-filtering software. Kathy Valente advises that citizen activism is the best means for changing policy at the other 15,000 libraries. She urges concerned citizens to band together to inform local library boards, civic leaders, church leaders, local government officials and state lawmakers about the problem.

    Efforts by Mrs. Valente and CCV resulted in a policy requiring that all the library computer terminals in Lansing, Illinois be equipped with internet filters. CCV members presented information and encouragement to their local library board over a 2 year period before the policy was finally adopted. A similar effort is now underway by concerned parents and activists in Fresno, CA, and in another positive development, the State of Minnesota passed a law, effective July 1, 2000, requiring public libraries to block obscenity and child pornography via filters "or other effective means."

    "It takes a community effort to change policy," notes Mrs. Valente, "but it can be done. Persistence and prayer are key." She encourages people to contact her organization for help in devising a strategy: Citizens for Community Values, Inc., 3400 W. 111th St., Chicago, IL 60655, P.O. Box 727, Lansing, IL 60438, phone 708/802-0037, fax 708/418-8563, web site www.safeplace.net/ccv/, email: kathy valente@safeplace.net.


     
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