Saturday, November 21, 2009

SafeLibraries is Right: A Public Libary can be a Dangerous Place

After a week of lambasting SafeLibraries, I want to point out that there is one critical point on which I agree with him completely: A public library can be a dangerous place.

Basic to much of the censorship rhetoric is an unspoken assumption that a library is, or ought to be, a nursery or day-care center.  No public library is either, nor can any public library ever be either.  Library staff have no legal right nor legal responsibility to supervise anybody's children.  A parent dropping their a child off at the library might has well have turned the child loose at a shopping mall.  Parents, please consider:
  • A library is a public place: anybody can walk in off the street.
  • Crimes are committed in libraries, as they are in many other places, both public and private.
  • Library staff have no in loco parentis rights or responsibilities: they are not supervising your children.
  • Most libraries have no police or private security guards on duty.
  • A library that does have police or private security on duty is likely to have experienced security problems in the recent past.
  • A public library is a place where children congregate.  This is known to potential kidnappers, molesters, and other exploiters.
  • Computers in your library might not have internet filters.
  • If your library has internet filters, those filters are not 100% reliable, and even if reliable, might not filter out everything you think should be filtered out.
  • Books and other materials in a library cover a wide range of views, and you might find some of these objectionable or inappropriate for your child. 
  • There are no controls within the library to prevent your child from accessing any library materials.  
As a parent, you have options in dealing with these issues.  Firstly, you never have let your child enter any public library.  Alternatively, you can accompany your child to the library and supervise your child's use of  library materials and services.  If you can't go with your child, you can make sure your child is accompanied by some other adult you have chosen to trust.  You can ensure that a younger child is accompanied by an older minor who is emotionally mature enough to act responsibly.  But if you think your child is not mature enough to go to a shopping mall alone, that child is probably not mature enough to go alone to the library.

And even if we censor and filter all that the censors want to censor and filter, most of the above would still be true.

1 comment:

  1. You're exactly right. A public place is a public place. Most parents who would never dream in a million years of turning their kid loose in the local Wal-Mart think the library is a safe little bubble that all the pedophiles and bad people don't know about. I love libraries but I'm wouldn't leave a five year old alone in one.

    My local library even has a policy for this particular issue. "Children under 9 years of age may not be left unattended in the library".

    Final note: This still proves that the books on the shelves have nothing to do with poor children getting molested in library bathrooms. Kids get molested at churches and playgrounds all the time, should we ban and restrict those too?