A person’s right to use a library should not be denied to or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views. — Article V of the Library Bill of Rights
Photo courtesy of the author
First, let me introduce myself demographically. I’m chronologically gifted. In other words, I’m older than rock and roll, and I began working as a public librarian in the 1970s. At that time, the cutting wave of censorship for the protection of innocent children from the degrading influence of the contents of the public library was to paint underpants on Mickey In the Night Kitchen with Wite-out®.
But that was then, and this is now. Now we have the Internet. Now kids can play games on the computer. And, as many in my demographic cohort express themselves, “THIS IS A LIBRARY, not a fun house for kids! Others are here to do important things on a computer!” (Remember if anyone is having fun it means they cannot be learning. If it’s educational it must be tedious and boring.)
To avoid this generational turmoil many libraries have installed a game room, complete with videogames. It’s as big a draw as afterschool snacks. Which brings me to the main topic of this post. Do age-segregated areas in the library violate Article V of the Library Bill of Rights?
Some libraries set aside computers for children, complete with child-size furniture to ensure that children have access to computers and don’t just get shunted aside by larger people. To me, this not a case of access being restricted that conflicts with Access to Library Resources and Services to Minors, because it’s designed to ensure that access. For its Children’s area, The Seattle Public Library has a laudable statement of this practice on its website:
Children’s areas within Library facilities are special parts of the Library housing special collections, programs and services designed especially for children. The purpose of the Children’s areas in Seattle Public Libraries is therefore to provide children and their caregivers with access to these special children’s materials, programs and services.
Children’s departments are available for use by those patrons who are accessing the special materials contained in the children’s collection and for use by children and their caregivers, to attend children’s programs, and to utilize other services provided by children’s departments. Patrons not included in these categories may be required to leave the children’s department and instead use other areas of the Library.
However, over the years at various libraries, I’ve encountered adult customers who don’t agree. Often, as mentioned above, they have important things to do on the computers and they aren’t any free in the adult area, or the ones in the children’s area are more convenient for them for other reasons.
- What do you think about this line of reasoning, and how do you handle this in your library?
The next questions may be even stickier, or more problematic. The following was designed to remediate the problem of overcrowding in the game room with only a limited number of screens and game controllers.
Photo courtesy of the author.
- How does it fit with the Access to Library Resources and Services to Minors? Especially the part that reads, “Children and young adults unquestionably possess First Amendment rights, including the right to receive information through the library in print, sound, images, data, games, software, and other formats.”
- Would you adopt a policy like this? If not, what do you, or would you, have as a policy?
And for extra credit consider these questions:
- What do you say to the eleven-year-old that wants to play Grand Theft Auto V?
- Would you, or have you, selected Grand Theft Auto V for your collection?
Your comments are invited.