Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Information policies regarding children's services tend to be quite different than those regarding adults. Some of these differences are blatant and yet others occur almost subconsciously.

There are those in the library and information science field that closely adhere to and follow the ALA's
Library Bill of Rights , Article V,

"A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views…"

However, they have opponents within their field who think it's necessary to differentiate between children and adults. They often site religious beliefs and family values as there reason for objecting to such free access to information. Some even believe we should be acting in loco parentis.

Nevertheless, those strictly loyal to the ALA's Library Bill of Rights site in their interpretation of it titled Access for Children and Young Adults to Nonprint Materials ,

"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 access to, and use of, library resources, based solely on the chronological age, education level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V."

It also states,

"Librarians, when dealing with minors, should apply the same standards to circulation of nonprint materials as are applied to books and other print material except when directly and specifically prohibited by law."

The ALA and it's supporters make it very clear that we are to not to act in loco parentis in the interpretation titled Access for Children and Young Adults to Nonprint Materials
it states,

"Parents – and only parents – have the right and responsibility to restrict access of their children – and only their children – to library resources."

The ALA also states in another interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights titled Free Access to Libraries for Minors,

"Children and young adults unquestionably possess First Amendment rights, including, the right to receive information through the library in print, nonprint, or digital format. Constitutionally protected speech cannot be suppressed solely to protect children or young adults from ideas or images a legislative body believes to be unsuitable for them." (Reference to Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 205 (1975)).

But even knowing and understanding this stance the ALA has taken on providing children's services, I wonder if I could sit idly by while a minor was able to access something that isn't what I consider age appropriate because of my professional obligations. I know that this is in direct violation of the Library Bill of Rights, but I'm a parent and I have a hard time turning off that switch. I'm always a parent and I have to be honest and say, I think I would probably, in some circumstances, almost forget about the Library Bill of Rights. I know these may not be my children, but I would feel responsible as a parent in general. Being a parent is now inherent for me, where the LBR has just become a part of my life.

This all probably sounds very unprofessional of me, but I wonder if any of you also deal with this issue? And even if you are not a parent, do you struggle with this? I wonder if my stance will change once the LBR has been fully integrated into my professional development. Maybe after finishing this program, I will feel differently.


American Library Association (2009). Access for Children and Young Adults to Nonprint Materials. Retrieved from

American Library Association (2009). Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved from

American Library Association (2009). Free Access to Libraries for Minors.
Retrieved from

Lorenzen, M. (2009). Information Policy as Library Policy: Intellectual Freedom.


HeidiJoGustad said...
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HeidiJoGustad said...

Nice work. I've begun to realize over the course of this semester that there are a few things that seem to inform a student's opinion more than anything else and principal among them is parenthood. Part of me feels like I have to defend my right to an opinion because I don't have children, but that is not to say anything against those who are parents, of course. I wonder if i'm not alone in this perspective.

Unknown said...

Information policies regarding children seems to be (like politics and religion) a very heated topic. While I feel strongly against censoring books to children, I feel slightly different about the issue of children, the Internet and pornography (and no, I'm not a parent). Then of course, there is the issue of ALA and the federal government in direct conflict of one another (in regards to Internet filtering, etc.) So, I think while it can be a difficult topic to talk about, I think hearing others views is very important in understanding and implementing the best plan of action for your community.

Gail said...
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Gail said...

I agree that the L B of R can cause problems, especially in the arena of the internet and children. CIPA provides for the use of filters which I strongly support. My school region is so filtered that kids would have a time getting information on Donald Duck. As we have read this semester, filters can be problematic for public libraries in that they can filter out too much. On this issue, maybe we have to agree to disagree.
Oh, I do have a 10 year old daughter.

Greta Grond said...

This is an interesting topic. Part of me finds the ALA's stance on this a bit over the top. If the organization really feels there should be no differentiation between adults and children, then why even have a children's section? Why not have American Psycho shelved by Arthur's Thanksgiving and Joy of Sex near Junie B Jones?

Yet the ALA has a division specifically for children, the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC). Its very existence indicates to me that the ALA acknowledges that materials and services for children are not necessarily the same as those for adults. If there were truly no difference, such an organization would not be necessary.

Because there is a difference, policies for types of materials may need to differ as well. I'm not suggesting that we start acting as morality police, but I am do support some basic guidelines for children's materials.

(I am a parent, but I think I would have had the same stance on this pre-parent.)

Joseph Miller said...


You hit the nail on the head for me in regard to this issue when you said, "If the organization [ALA] really feels there should be no differentiation between adults and children, then why even have a children's section?"

This quote does a great job of pointing out how disconnected the ALA's stance toward children is. On the one hand they want us to treat children as if they were adults and yet the very structure of their organization implies that children are not adults. There is a difference between adult and children services. It seems that in the interest of being proponents of access to information to all that they are forgetting that children, though they have many of the rights adults do are still protected under the law in ways that indicate that adults in charge of children have an obligation, if not legally than at least morally, to protect the children in their trust. Although the ALA might say that libraries are not teachers (and therefore don't need to act in loco parentis), I'm afraid that many parents believe (and want) the library to be a safe environment for their children.

Also I see another disconnect in regard to allowing adults/children access to whatever sites they wish to visit (even pornography). The library is a public place and therefore anything an adult or child accesses could be seen by other adults and/or children. Some of which will be offended by what they or their children might see. This could lead to all sorts of problems, especially if the computers are in high traffic areas. All of these problems can be easily avoided by a policy of "no pornography on the computers adult or otherwise." However, this would violate the ALA's belief in the right unlimited access to information.

Holly said...

"Parents – and only parents – have the right and responsibility to restrict access of their children – and only their children – to library resources."

This clearly states that no one else should be acting in loco parentis- parents have full responsibility to monitor their children's usage. The library is not a day care center!

Ashley Smith said...

I did a paper on Internet filters in my 6080 class and discovered that by 2005 a majority of public libraries had filters on their public-access terminals. Regardless of whether you wholeheartedly support the ALA's Bill of Rights or believe it needs to be tweaked in matters of what information minors can access, most children can't access pornographic or violent Web sites at their public library. With CIPA, the government is acting in loco parentis, not the library.