Friday, August 30, 2019

Library Bill of Rights Means 'Nothing': Berry v. Yosemite Community College District

A United States District Court judge has ruled that the American Library Association's so-called "Library Bill of Rights" actually means "nothing to indicate that there would be a private cause of action based upon a violation."  It is "not a federal statute."  Rather, it is "an unambiguous statement of principles that should govern the service of all libraries" that is "promulgated by the American Library Association."

In other words, when your local librarians cite the Library Bill of Rights as if it were some hard and fast rule of law equivalent to the Bill of Rights, or when your library board of trustees incorporates it into its own policy statements, you'll know four things—1) that's fake, 2) the Library Bill of Rights is meaningless in your community since it comes from ALA and not from your local law, or any law for that matter, 3) that's a sort of bullying by puffing up a mere promulgation of ALA as it if were real law, and you're labeled as the censor if you don't obey or if you insist that local law trumps a "statement of principles" from some organization based in Chicago, IL, and 4) they are hiding something.

It implies, for example, that it would be age discrimination to keep children from material inappropriate for them.  In reality, it's perfectly appropriate, and that's why Judith Krug and her ALA lost in the US Supreme Court where the Court said unanimously in United States v. American Library Association, 539 U.S. 194 (2003), "There are substantial Government interests at stake here: The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree."

ALA, on the other hand, says, "V. A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of ... age...."  See the difference?  By the way, the "V." is to give the appearance of legal legitimacy akin to the real Bill of Rights.

So, almost literally, a court has ruled ALA's so-called Library Bill of Rights means nothing, except to ALA itself and its members.

It is more of an "aspirational creed" than anything else: Reality Bites: The Collision of Rhetoric, Rights, and Reality and the Library Bill of Rights.

Here's what the United States District Court judge said about ALA's Library Bill of Rights in Berry v. Yosemite Community College District, Case No. 1:18-cv-00172-LJO-SAB. (E.D. Cal. Apr. 17, 2018):
E. Library Bill of Rights 
Plaintiff contends that Defendants violated Article III of the Code of Ethics of the Library Bill of Rights because they did not take the necessary legal steps before breaching her confidential library records and reporting them in the joint status report. However, the Code of Ethics of the Library Bill of Rights is not a federal statute, but is promulgated by the American Library Association. The Library Bill of Rights is an unambiguous statement of principles that should govern the service of all libraries. While the documents represent the polices of the American Library Association, there is nothing to indicate that there would be a private cause of action based upon a violation. See Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights available at (last visited April 16, 2018).
Which reminds me.  Libraries assert the Library Bill of Rights is the reason for allowing Drag Queen Story Hour to proceed.  But as we've seen the Library Bill of Rights means nothing.  What does mean something is the law that created the library.  Such laws require libraries to act for the benefit of the public, and Drag Queen Story Time actually harms the public, so it's against the law and can be stopped by application of the law—if people were only aware of the law.  But librarians don't want you to know that, that your own library law may preclude Drag Queen Story Hour.  They only want you to know about the Library Bill of Rights that in reality means nothing.  Isn't that interesting?  Makes you think.  This is what they are hiding by asserting the Library Bill of Rights, namely, that local laws controls, not some aspirational creed of an out-of-state organization.  See, for example:


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