Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Response to Fresno Bee Re Fired Librarian

Below is my response to "Internet Poses New Challenge to Libraries; Tulare Co.'s Flap Over Child Porn Raises Concern," by Tim Sheehan, The Fresno Bee, 31 March 2008:

Dear Tim Sheehan,


Deborah Caldwell-Stone is quoted as saying, "it's up to the local library to decide what's in the best interest in its community." She is correct. And she adds, assuringly, "The ALA clearly does not condone child pornography." But what does not appear in the article is the heavy handed approach by the ALA in directing local libraries what to think is in their best interests, essentially leaving many libraries as satellites of the ALA--and open to child pornography.

Here is the advice the ALA provides to local libraries in one of its sample policies: "As for obscenity and child pornography, prosecutors and police have adequate tools to enforce criminal laws. Libraries are not a component of law enforcement efforts...." So in public the ALA opposes child pornography and says local libraries should decide what is best for their own communities, but in reality the ALA is directing local libraries to ignore child pornography. Ignoring child pornography seems to be what happened in the Lindsay Library. Coincidence?

As further confirmation of how the ALA leads local libraries to follow ALA policies instead of community standards, notice how both the library and the ALA argue that no one can really judge what is child pornography. Caldwell-Stone puts it best, "One person's 'pornography' is another person's 'Venus de Milo' or Michelangelo's 'David.'"

"What one person might object to is constitutionally protected material," says Caldwell-Stone. Correct, but that is intentionally misleading. According the US v. ALA, public libraries are not open public fora where anything goes. All constitutionally protected material does not get automatically included in all library collections. Indeed libraries are created by some legal instrument that describes explicitly or implicitly what material is acceptable in the public library and what material is not acceptable, even if that material may be constitutionally protected. For example, US v. ALA explained Internet filters may be used to extend existing book collection policies and practices over the Internet, and those existing policies exclude certain constitutionally protected material. So, thanks to local library enabling legislation, otherwise constitutionally protected material may represent a violation of local law. The ALA should not be advising local libraries to violate the very local laws that created them.

Most shocking is that the ALA and Caldwell-Stone lost on these issues in US v. ALA, yet they are continuing to argue these same issues already asked and answered by the US Supreme Court five years ago. Notice the use of ad hominem argument to further obfuscate the issue, "Libraries are truly a democratic institution and should represent everyone, not just a loud majority," said Deborah Caldwell-Stone. What if the "loud majority" is legally correct?

Shame on the ALA, but more shame goes to local communities if they continue to be misled by the ALA or allow the media to report ALA misinformation without question. It does appear, however, that Lindsay leadership is not fooled by the ALA, and Tim Sheehan's article was even handed. Slowly, communities are waking up to the negative influences of the ALA's grip over local library policy. That is good news for children and communities nationwide.



  1. My latest on this case is here:

    There are too conservative (well, at least libertarian) librarians

  2. Thanks, Jeffrey. I added your blog to my Delicious links on this Lindsay, CA, fired librarian issue.

    You said, "The kiddie-porn-reporting librarian has been accused after-the-fact of being a bad shelver!?" That's an interesting observation. Is shelving taught in library schools? ;-)


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