Saturday, January 20, 2007

Is the library your mommy?

Busy parents Bill and Troy McKenzie said the public library was a place they had come to trust.

"Our kids...have grown up in the library," Mrs. McKenzie said. "I thought the library was kid-friendly."

However, when the family returned home from the Martin Luther King library branch in South Dallas last week, they started watching Black Shampoo, which was the movie their 8-year-old daughter Gabby checked out. The movie had sexual situations, full frontal nudity and foul language.

"I would categorize that movie as porn," Mrs. McKenzie said. "Porn should go where it belongs, and it's not in the libraries,"

The library did pull Black Shampoo from its shelves, but didn't bend on McKenzie's bigger concern, which is letting children take home "R" rated films.

"If there is an 'R' rating on this movie, why should somebody at the age of six, seven, eight, nine and 10 be allowed to rent it out?" she said.

Branch manager Lynne Craddock said none of the 18 Dallas libraries deny access to "R" rated films, and parents should assume that responsibility when they get their child a card.

"The policy of the library states that the parent is ultimately responsible for their child whenever they want to check out materials," she said.

The first problem is that these people think that some material they don't like shouldn't be available for anyone. The fundamental flaw with that is that people aren't going to agree on what's offensive and what's not. Not even in general. Some years back I witnessed a lady telling the librarian at one of our branches that we needed to get rid of "A Clockwork Orange" because it has a rape scene. She was offended, and didn't feel it should be on our shelves. Well, what about any of the movies we have with graphic sex or violence? There are people who object to those. Should we take them all off? You'll be able to find people who object to just about anything we have. Some people don't want books that teach evolution on our shelves. Some people don't want us to have books by the Marquis de Sade. Some people don't think we should have A Catcher in the Rye, or Huck Finn. If we just pulled everything people objected to, pretty soon we'd have nothing left but a couple of cds by Raffi. It's not appropriate for us to limit our selection simply for that reason. We're paid for with public funds, which is exactly why we should have materials that appeal to every citizen.

Then, of course, there are those who think we should evaluate the content as to decide what's appropriate for someone to read or watch. Well, adults have the right to watch or read anything they want. While you might argue that children don't, well, the public library is not the arbiter of anyone's rights or freedoms. If the parents don't want kids watching or reading something, it's the parent's job to keep them from getting that material. The library not only shouldn't be burdened with the responsibility of judging what's right or wrong for kids, it shouldn't have that power. Some parents send their kids to the library to pick up movies for the parents! If we had any restrictions on what their kids could get, they'd be pissed off. Well, that's their call, as parents.

The reporter compares the library to the movie theater or Blockbuster, where they enforce age restrictions. Well, that's ignorant. They're happy to take your money and your kids' money, and if that means restricting by age, so be it. They don't have any worries about misusing public funds, and they'll take your money and not watch your kids any more than the library will. The problem here is that parents have gotten so lazy they don't take responsibility for what movies their kids go see, or what dvds they buy. And they pay for that privilege at these stores. But the library isn't a daycare anymore than Blockbuster is, and if you don't want your kid getting R-rated movies, well, get your ass over there and make sure they don't get any. Is that too hard? The parents in this story admitted that they weren't there watching over what their kids were checking out, but instead of saying, "We need to be more watchful", they said the library was at fault for making questionable materials available to their children. Yeah, sure, make everyone but yourself responsible for your kids.

I have to make this point explicitly clear: the library is not a daycare. The librarians are not paid or expected to supervise your kids or keep them safe. They get a Masters of Library Science to be able to effectively put together collections and programs that entertain and educate the public, both kids and adults. If you want somebody to wipe your kid's ass, you get a babysitter, not a librarian. The library is not designed with unsupervised children in mind, and even if it were there's no way we have the money for the staff to watch them all because most people wouldn't vote for tax increases for necessary services like water and sewer, much less library personnel.

Final point: DVD players and TV sets from the last decade all have parental controls built in. You don't want your kids watching hardcore sex, USE THE CONTROLS. Quit trying to make it other people's problem.

1 comment:

Xanthippas said...

I'm with you 100% on this one. It is not up to the library to regulate what kids do and do not check out. No kid should be checking out materials without their parents supervising them, or at least reviewing what they've gotten. Oh and by the way, for an idea of the stupidity of these parents, google "Black Shampoo" so you can see what the cover of the DVD looks like, and then tell me that the parents shouldn't have had some questions about what they were popping in their DVD player. The library exists to provide knowledge to citizens yes, but not to protect them from their own stupidity.