Saturday, June 25, 2011

Keeping R-Rated Films from Children is Censorship, According to the ALA and the Fountaindale Public Library That Blindly Follows the ALA

Keeping R-rated films from children is censorship?  It seems the American Library Association [ALA] says so, and it seems the Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbrook, IL, has ceded local control of the library to the ALA.  At least that's my understanding of the following report:

Does your local library cede control to the ALA?

The following resources will enlighten your own evaluation of the issue:
  • "Library Dvds Raise Eyebrows; In Most Cases, Kids are Free to Check Out R-Rated Movies," by Nin-Hai Tseng, Orlando Sentinel, 17 May 2007.
    Librarians say the restrictions McCreary is advocating may be well intentioned but pose an issue over censorship.
  • "Movie Ratings are Private, Not Public Policy," by Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Deputy Director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, Illinois Library Association Reporter, March 2004.
    Use of the MPAA ratings system to restrict young people's access to films and videos is a violation of the Library Bill of Rights and an impermissible prior restraint on free expression.
  • "Questions and Answers on Labeling and Rating Systems," by American Library Association, American Library Association, 16 January 2010.
    Cataloging decisions, labels, or ratings applied in an attempt to restrict or discourage access to materials or to suggest moral or doctrinal endorsement is a violation of the First Amendment and the Library Bill of Rights....
  • "What's In a Label?," by Marcia Sarnowski, Winding Rivers Library System, 22 December 2010.
    Some may argue that this type of labeling is a service to parents as it helps them protect their children from visual or printed content they may find objectionable.  ....  Only a court has the authority to decide, for others, what is obscene or harmful to minors.

See also:

Here's my comment I added to that article in the Bolingbrook Patch:
Over 40 years ago, an ACLU Illinois state leader who created the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom singlehandedly changed the way librarians dealt with children.  No longer would they provide them with age appropriate material.  Suddenly it was anything goes, and for 40 years that person has been driving the message into American libraries.  That's why the Fountaindale Public Library is in the position it is in.  That's why it is admitting it will follow the ALA policy.

The real question is whether the citizens in Bolingbrook, IL, want to protect their children legally and with common sense, or cede control over to the ACLU-inspired ALA policy.

Yes, "access to a wide range of materials is a right granted to all—even kids."  However, the does not mean public libraries get to violate common sense and the law just because of the ALA's bully pulpit.  See US v. ALA, a case the ALA lost big in 2003.

Further, the ALA argues MPAA movie ratings should not be given credence in public libraries since the MPAA is not a local organization the community controls.  So tell me, then, why should the ALA policies hold sway when it is also not a local organization the community controls?
Patch, how about polling the Bolingbrook citizens on whether or not they wish to allow children to borrow R-rated films?  I think we all know which way that would go.  Now it's time for the ALA policy to go.

I ask anyone interested to contact me for information and possible assistance.

NOTE ADDED 27 JUNE 2011:

For a reason unknown to me, the link to the relevant article has gone dead.  Therefore, in respect of US Copyright §107 Fair Use, and for discussion purposes, I hereby reprint the article, hyperlinks from original:


Government

Should Kids Be Allowed to Rent R-Rated Movies From the Library?

The Fountaindale Public Library does not prohibit the renting of R-rated movies for children, per American Library Association policy.  But should they?


By Brian Feldt | June 25, 2011 

Imagine you're a parent. Or maybe you already are a parent and have young children—kids that impressionable and vulnerable to today's society, especially when it comes to the music and movie industry.

You try hard to shield your kids from the vulgar or inappropriate messages that some movies and music contain. But you can't shield them from everything.

And the Fountaindale Public Library isn't exactly helping your cause.

Per the library's policy, librarians are prohibited from blocking the rental of R-rated movies by minors. Not even when the movie in question is obviously not meant for a youngster.

The issue was raised last week at the library's board of trustees meeting, where an upset mother took issue with the library's practices.  The mother said her 15-year-old son was able to rent Fight Club from the library without any word of warning or message to the parent.

Had she not seen the movie in her son's book bag, she never would have known it was even rented.

Fight Club, a popular movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, is rated R for "disturbing and graphic depiction of violent anti-social behavior, sexuality and language," according to The Classification and Rating Administration.

But library officials said the most they could do is have a strong discussion with its new director—Paul Mills, who will begin work July 5.

Peggy Danhoff, the librar's board president, said the issue was "very close to her heart," but said for the time being, the library is sticking with American Library Association policy.

That policy reads: "Recognizing that librarians cannot act in loco parentis, policies which set minimum age limits for access to nonprint materials and equipment with or without parental permission abridge library use for minors."

What does that mean?

This, according to an ALA interpretation of the policy:

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


    ... Parents—and only parents—have the right and responsibility to restrict access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.  Parents who do not want their children to have access to certain library services, materials, or facilities should so advise their children.  Librarians and library governing bodies cannot assume the role of parents or the functions of parental authority in the private relationship between a parent and child.


    Lack of access to information can be harmful to minors.  Librarians and library governing bodies have a public and professional obligation to ensure that all members of the community they serve have free, equal, and equitable access to the entire range of library resources regardless of content, approach, format, or amount of detail."

Danhoff said the library does its best to make sure kids aren't renting inappropriate movies by putting R-rated movies in the adult section, located on the third floor—far from the children's section on the first floor or young adult and teen section on the second floor.

And per ALA policy, it acknowledges and supports the exercise by parents to guide their own children’s viewing, using published reviews of films and videotapes and reference works that provide information about the content, subject matter and recommended audiences.

But putting a stipulation on teens or young children's library cards would be a form of censorship, not to mention technologically impracticable for the library, Danhoff said.


What do you think?  Should public institutions such as libraries help parent children by monitoring what they watch and rent?  Or should ALA policy stand?  And access to a wide range of materials is a right granted to all—even kids.


Weigh in by leaving a comment below.


NOTE ADDED 7 SEPTEMBER 2011:

Here is relevant information that the ALA's Judith Krug supported communities deciding R-rated movie policies for themselves!


While one library was fending off an attempt to restrict minor access to R-rated videos, the Dayton, Ohio public library has attempted to balance the tension between access and parental discretion.  The policy resulted from a petition request signed by "several hundred parents at odds with the library's open access philosophy[.]"  The policy allows parents to sign a form requesting their children not have access to R-rated films.  However, the originator of the petition, a father objecting to his son's viewing of an R-rated video checked out of the library, was unhappy with the policy because he had asked the library "to require explicit permission to take out R-rated movies and they haven't done that[.]"  Judith Krug, director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom commented: "If it is in the best judgment of that library and its board that a modified restricted access policy is a necessity, then they've done it properly: that is, the burden has been placed on the people wanting to restrict their children."


"Democracy and the Public Library: Essays on Fundamental Issues," by Arthur W. Hafner, ed., Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1993, pp. 304-305, citations omitted.


NOTE ADDED 28 FEBRUARY 2012:

I can't wait until the ALA cries "censorship" that the movie "Perks of Being A Wallflower" got R-rated by the MPAA!


'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' has been given an R rating by the MPAA, which could alienate underage fans of Emma Watson and Logan Lerman.

According to IMDb, the rating was issued for the movie's "teen drug and alcohol use, and some sexual references." Summit Entertainment, plans on appealing the rating, and with no release date set just yet, it has plenty of time.  Director Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the book from which the movie was adapted, has always intended for the flick to be rated PG-13.

If the movie is true to the novel, the R rating doesn't come as such a surprise, though.  The mature subject matter of 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' helped put the title at No. 3 on the American Library Association's Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009.

Still, we're crossing our fingers that the movie can be edited for a PG-13 rating. Are you excited for Emma and Logan's forthcoming release?  Would the R rating prevent you from being able to see it?

NOTE ADDED 18 MAY 2012:

The ALA has doubled down on its stance regarding R-rated movies and the MPAA:
Meantime, the ALA is a "big, nebulous organization decid[ing] what your kid can or can't read," namely anything, no matter how inappropriate, is it calls book ratings "censorship":


NOTE ADDED 22 JULY 2012:


NOTE ADDED 16 SEPTEMBER 2012:

  • "Nashua Library Lifts Age Restriction on Borrowing R-Rated Movies," by Patrick Meighan, Nashua Telegraph, 15 September 2012:
    Under a change in policy, you no longer have to be at least 18 to check out an R-rated or unrated movie at the Nashua Public Library.

    The age requirement was never a formal policy adopted by the library board of trustees, said Library Director Jennifer Hinderer. Rather, it had been put in place in late winter 2008 by the former director in response to a parent’s complaint, Hinderer said.

    There was already no age restriction in checking out other materials, such as books or magazines, Hinderer said. When she became library director early in 2010, Hinderer had on her “to do” list bringing the policy for checking out DVDs or VCR tapes in line with other materials.

    The change also makes the policy consistent with the “right to read” and “right to view” principles outlined in the American Library Association’s “Libraries, an American Value.”

    In her blog, npl documents.org/libraryblog, Hinderer links to the document. She also explains the reasons for the change.

    “The borrowing restrictions violated basic library principles regarding intellectual freedom, and I am glad we were able to finally lift them,” Hinderer wrote Thursday.

    She explains that families and individuals should make choices about what is acceptable to view, not library staff.

    She also noted it isn’t illegal for someone younger than 17 to view an R-rated movie. Rather, the ratings are guidelines adopted by the Motion Picture Association of America, which theaters have agreed to honor.

    A cinema may ban teens younger than 17 not accompanied by adults from watching an R movie, but it wouldn’t break the law if it permitted them to do so, Hinderer said.

    Hinderer posted the blog Thursday night. As of Friday midmorning, she hadn’t heard any complaints, although she expects some parents and individuals won’t like the policy change.

    The change brings the library in line with policies at most other public libraries, said Janet Angus, director of the Merrimack Public Library.

    Anyone with a valid library card can check out anything in the circulation, she said.

    “We’ve never had any age restrictions,” Angus said.

    It’s the job of parents to monitor what their children are checking out, Angus said.

    Likewise, neither the Rodgers Memorial Library in Hudson nor the Wadleigh Memorial Library in Milford place age restrictions on checking out DVDs or other materials in their collections.

    In browsing the “feature film” section of the library’s collection, not many salacious titles jump out. For example, a teenager without a parent now could check out such R movies as the Alfred Hitchcock movie “Frenzy” or the Russell Crowe adventure movie “Gladiator.”

    Then there’s the Spaghetti Western titled “For a Few Dollars More” starring Clint Eastwood. One of the more salaciously titled DVDs is “Born into Brothels.” But a critic’s comments on the cover proclaims the movie to be about “the resiliency of childhood.”

    Library patrons asked Friday disagreed about whether the change was good.

    Joyce, a woman who browsed the movie section with a preschool-age child, said the change didn’t bother her.

    It’s the parent’s job to monitor what a child watches or brings into the home,” said Joyce, who declined to give her last name but who said she’s a Nashua resident.

    That holds as true to a child’s TV watching habits as to rented or borrowed movies, she said.

    “Look at what comes on TV now,” Joyce said.

    Shelly Simpson, also a parent, disagreed. She thinks carding teens who want to rent R movies is the right approach.

    “I used to sneak R-rated movies past my parents all the time,” said Simpson, 28, the mother of a 3-year-old.

    Prohibiting teens younger than 18 from renting R movies would “make the job easier for parents,” Simpson said.

    Video rental stores card people renting movies, she said.

    “It depends on how their parents brought them up,” said Barbara Lambert, parent of daughters ages 23 and 24.

    Some teens are mature enough to handle R movies with serious themes, such as “Schindler’s List.” But she worries many children have become desensitized to violence with so much of it on television.

    Censorship is the job of parents, not the library staff, said Mary Maloney, a mother of four children ranging in age from 14 to 27.

    Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashua telegraph.com. Also, follow Meighan on Twitter @ Telegraph_PatM.

3 comments:

  1. At the time I was a teenager, my local libraries policy on borrowing movies was that parents could either allow their child's card to check out all movies or no movies at all. But you couldn't restrict just R movies, not sure why.

    Movie theaters will not allow kids to see R movies without an adult, and I think many movie rental places have the same rule, and no one calls that censorship, so I really don't see what the issue is.

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  2. Thanks for commenting, Rebecca Herman. It's no issue at all. It's only an issue to the ALA.

    You see, the ALA's "Office for Intellectual Freedom" was started about four decades ago by an Illinois state ACLU leader. The person singlehandedly changed how librarians approached children. No longer would librarians provide children with appropriate material--now it's anything goes, and it all started with that single ACLU leader at the ALA.

    That's why everywhere outside of libraries R-rated movies have significance vis-a-vis children and no one thinks its censorship.

    The point of my pointing this out is to show communities an example of the extent of control the ALA has over local them. I hope to help people realize they need not accept the "anything goes" policy of some ACLU-infected organization.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Checking out R-movies at a library is different from going to a movie rental store, or the movie theaters because no one checks out DVDs at the desk. There is no staff member or librarian monitoring each and every item that is checked out to every individual that steps through the library doors. Its the parents' responsibility to know what their kids are checking out from the libraries.

    ReplyDelete

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