One man changed his local library's policy at the Nampa Public Library in Nampa, Idaho, USA. SafeLibraries has asked this man to explain how he did it. While the change itself (regarding books) is not related to SafeLibraries' main interest (educating the public about Internet filters vis-a-vis the ALA), the method of effecting change is potentially very educational and should be interesting/useful to read. Here is his response:
On March 10, 2008, a huge victory was won for families in Nampa and throughout the state. The Nampa Library Board, in a 3-2 decision, decided to pull from the shelves two books that could be considered nothing less than hardcore pornography. The books, entitled "The New Joy of Sex" and "The Joy of Gay Sex," contained illustrations, pictures, and photographs that were so graphic even the 10:00 news could not show them in their newscast. So the question became: why then were they on the public library shelves, in a place that is supposed to be family friendly?
I first became aware of the books in December of 2005 when a friend of mine informed me of how her 14 year old son had found a copy of "The Joy of Gay Sex" sitting on a table at the Nampa Public Library. She then told me what she saw in the books--graphic, detailed illustrations of various homosexual sex acts. I thought at first that surely this was not as bad as she had made it seem--after all, kids run around the library, so surely they would not have anything of this sort sitting on the shelves, right? I decided to investigate further, and what I found was absolutely horrifying. As a parent, I was shocked to see these two books sitting on a shelf right next to books on racism and World War II!
Thus began the long, almost 2 year battle with The Nampa Public Library. The first time I went to the Library Board, I was informed that some people in our community need these reference books to "see how things go together." Surprisingly, in a 5-0 vote, they decided to keep the books on the shelf. So I took the next step--I went to the Mayor and City Council. I brought my concerns to their attention, gave them information (including photocopies of the pictures) of what was in the book, and put the ball in their court. They responded well, by requesting the Library hold a special Board meeting to discuss the issue.
This meeting was well attended by the public, as the basement of the Library was packed with people there to see what would happen. The Mayor’s office had been bombarded with phone calls and e-mails from people demanding the books be removed, thanks to the help of Generation Life and the Idaho Values Alliance helping to get the word out! The Mayor spoke, as well as a representative from City Council, both lending support and requesting the Library pull the books. However, we would be denied again, as the Library voted 4-1 to keep the books but move them to a higher shelf.
Some thought this was a good compromise, and have asked me why I did not agree. It is quite simple, really--because our concern was not just with the 4 and 5 year olds that might see these book--the teenagers as well. Studies have shown that exposure to pornography in the childhood and teenage years can be damaging to kids, effecting how they view sex, and how they view relationships in general, by giving them an unrealistic idea of what to expect. On top of that, pornography is very addicting, with some experts saying it is more addictive than heroine! Marriages and families have been torn apart because of pornography addiction. While it may be true that it seems like everywhere you look you find porn images, that does not excuse the Library from having it on its shelves--in reach of kids.
It is important to note that the whole basis of our complaint was not because of written content, but only because of the graphic, detailed illustrations, pictures, and photographs that littered the pages of these books. The word that is written takes a little bit of time to absorb--you do have to read it. However, in the case of these images--it only takes one brief look and it is branded in your mind.
After going to the Library Board twice, I was unsure how to proceed next. So I waited and prayed. After some time, I became aware that 2 new board members had been added to the Library Board. After some prayer, and being approached again by people in our community, I felt that it was time to try again. So on March 10, once again, there was a showdown about these books. There was much heated debate, as this time the meeting was open to public comment. People came out on both sides of the issue, and spoke passionately about their feelings. The main point of those in favor of keeping the books: censorship. After about 2 hours of public comment, the Library Board voted. This time, it was in our favor. A 3-2 vote took the books off the shelf--permanently--and into the director’s office. They are still available to be checked out, but they must be requested from the director. In the meantime, the Board will be examining the purchasing policies of the Library, and perhaps in the near future they will be completely removed from the Library.
It is important to note that this was not censorship--the government is not banning the book from the public. They are still available to anyone at private bookstores and online. The Library Board simply did what the Library does on a regular basis--select books for removal from the shelves. By doing so, they have taken steps to making the library a safe place for families again. And why shouldn’t it be? The Library, after all, is not an adult bookstore--it is publicly owned for people in our community of all ages to enjoy, without parents needing to worry what pornography their kids--or teenagers--might see.
The moral of the story is this: we as Americans, and as Christians, should stand up for what is morally right and best for the society as a whole. We can have victory, even when it looks like we are facing a giant! Remember, Paul encourages us to "take on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Paul never encourages us to sit or look the other way--so let’s stand for what is right!
Randy Jackson is the director of Youth For Revolution, a Christian Faith in action ministry. You can contact him by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, visiting our website at www.youth4revolution.com, or by phone: (208) 514-5962.