Imagine you're a parent. Or maybe you already are a parent and have young children—kids that impressionable and vulnerable to today's society, especially when it comes to the music and movie industry.
You try hard to shield your kids from the vulgar or inappropriate messages that some movies and music contain. But you can't shield them from everything.
And the isn't exactly helping your cause.
Per the library's policy, librarians are prohibited from blocking the rental of R-rated movies by minors. Not even when the movie in question is obviously not meant for a youngster.
The issue was raised last week at the library's board of trustees meeting, where an upset mother took issue with the library's practices. The mother said her 15-year-old son was able to rent Fight Club from the library without any word of warning or message to the parent.
Had she not seen the movie in her son's book bag, she never would have known it was even rented.
Fight Club, a popular movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, is rated R for "disturbing and graphic depiction of violent anti-social behavior, sexuality and language," according to The Classification and Rating Administration.
But library officials said the most they could do is have a strong discussion with its new director—Paul Mills, who will begin work July 5.
Peggy Danhoff, the librar's board president, said the issue was "very close to her heart," but said for the time being, the library is sticking with American Library Association policy.
That policy reads: "Recognizing that librarians cannot act in loco parentis, policies which set minimum age limits for access to nonprint materials and equipment with or without parental permission abridge library use for minors."
What does that mean?
This, according to an ALA interpretation of the policy:
"... The 'right to use a library' includes free access to, and unrestricted use of, all the services, materials, and facilities the library has to offer. Every restriction on acces to, and use of, library resources, based solely on the chonological age, educational level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V.
... Parents—and only parents—have the right and responsibility to restrict access of their children—and only their children—to library resources. Parents who do not want their children to have access to certain library services, materials, or facilities should so advise their children. Librarians and library governing bodies cannot assume the role of parents or the functions of parental authority in the private relationship between a parent and child.
Lack of access to information can be harmful to minors. Librarians and library governing bodies have a public and professional obligation to ensure that all members of the community they serve have free, equal, and equitable access to the entire range of library resources regardless of content, approach, format, or amount of detail."
Danhoff said the library does its best to make sure kids aren't renting inappropriate movies by putting R-rated movies in the adult section, located on the third floor—far from the children's section on the first floor or young adult and teen section on the second floor.
And per ALA policy, it acknowledges and supports the exercise by parents to guide their own children’s viewing, using published reviews of films and videotapes and reference works that provide information about the content, subject matter and recommended audiences.
But putting a stipulation on teens or young children's library cards would be a form of censorship, not to mention technologically impracticable for the library, Danhoff said.
What do you think? Should public institutions such as libraries help parent children by monitoring what they watch and rent? Or should ALA policy stand? And access to a wide range of materials is a right granted to all—even kids.
Weigh in by leaving a comment below.