Policy Statement--Opposing elimination of library employment as defense

Policy Statement--Opposing elimination of library employment as defense

POLICY STATEMENT

OPPOSE ANY CHANGE TO THE IDAHO CODE WHICH WOULD ELIMINATE LIBRARY EMPLOYMENT AS A DEFENSE IN CASES RELATING TO THE DISTRIBUTION OF MATERIALS HARMFUL TO MINORS

Policy Statement: The Idaho Library Association supports the rights and responsibilities of parents to determine which library materials are appropriate for use by their own children. The Association acknowledges that not all library materials are appropriate for use by all library patrons and that each library patron has a different definition of what materials might be harmful to minors. Library employees are not in a position to make decisions as to what materials may or should be used by individual patrons. Parents or guardians are responsible for library materials used by minor children. Failure of a parent to provide guidance and/or restrictions for their own children does not require library staff to act in loco parentis. The Association opposes any change to the Idaho Code which would eliminate library employment as a defense in cases relating to the distribution of materials harmful to minors.

Library staff members often serve hundreds of patrons each day. They regularly make suggestions for appropriate reading/viewing/listening materials to patrons of all ages. When checking materials out of the library, they do not—nor should they be expected to—always notice what materials have been selected by the patron. They have no way of knowing whether or not a parent has approved of a minor’s selections. In an effort to be a trusted neutral means of accessing information, library employees have been trained to refrain from judging the appropriateness of patron’s selections or from questioning a patron’s reasons for desiring particular information or materials.

Although libraries select materials to reflect community standards as a whole, individual patrons whose standards differ from those of the general community may not approve of particular items in the library’s collection. A reproduction of a nude painted by Rubens or a photograph of a woman conducting a breast self-examination may be seen as “pornography” by some patrons, who might deem the material harmful to minors. Removal of the defense of library employment would put library employees in the position of “second guessing” every selection by a minor child; employees might very well err on the side of caution and refuse (for their own protection) to check out to minors any materials which might be called into question—assuming that they even notice what a particular selection might be. This may mean that the student who is doing a last minute report on Rubens isn’t allowed to take a relevant book home! Due to liability issues, some public library boards are considering the drastic step of banning unaccompanied minors from the library if this defense is removed from the Idaho Code.

The Idaho Library Association reaffirms its position that parents should be involved in their children’s library use and in the selection of materials which their own children make. It encourages parents to make clear to their children what materials are an appropriate match for their own family standards and to review their children’s selections to ensure that they are not what the parents consider to be harmful to them.

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