The Battle for Public Libraries:
Censorship and Law in Missouri
by Lisa Grant
American Library Association [ALA] will know that it is at the forefront of a raging debate about privacy issues and censorship regarding public library access. On one side, the ALA believes that any public citizen using the library computers or literature is afforded a basic right of privacy when it comes to the kind of content they are looking at. This sounds acceptable enough, but what if this content is illegal in nature or pornographic? This is of concern to many parents and community leaders who believe that their community should decide what kind of content is available in their public libraries, so as to protect children from inappropriate material and prevent access to websites or reading material that could be considered dangerous or illegal.
The Nature of the Problem
These are difficult questions to answer. On one hand, we might say that it is an infringement on personal liberty and censorship to remove these examples. On the flip side, if these materials are used to further some illegal or terrorist activity, then surely such things can be prevented by introducing a small amount of careful censorship. The ALA has made its position clear on the matter, invoking much controversy and outrage among communities when it claimed that a suspected terrorist who was reported by a local librarian for accessing what was thought to be dangerous and potentially illegal material had his rights infringed by the librarian in question, by being reported to the police. It is known that a number of 9/11 terrorists did use public libraries prior to the attack.
Recent Missouri Case
Should Communities Have More Power?
Copyright Lisa Grant 2013. All rights reserved. Hyperlinks inserted by the author. Graphics added by SafeLibraries. If anyone wishes to contact her, such as for publication approval, send me an email and I'll pass it along, or comment below.
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