The Undercover Librarian

Items to Share: Should minors have access to information?

I’m a big fan of Ariel Meadow Stallings’ Offbeat Empire, but I didn’t think I’d ever see anything on any of the sites that could be re-posted over here. So I was thrilled to see this last week.

Although the post is largely concerned more with parents’ approaches to censoring – or not censoring – what their children see, the issue of censoring – or not censoring – materials that could be viewed by children is an issue for libraries, particularly in the public sector. I’m currently doing a stint in a public library, and while I’m not working in children’s services specifically, knowing that there are still children in my department has got me thinking about how to handle the possibility of a child viewing material that might not necessarily be age appropriate. Is it even the place of library staff to make these judgment calls?

Based on the responses to the original post, the answer to this question appears to be “no”. Many of the responders – most of whom identify themselves as parents – state that they decide what their children can and cannot see, and that it shouldn’t be up to anyone else to make these calls on their behalf. Discussions with colleagues and friends who work in libraries brought similar results. The library staff that I know don’t seem have any interest in policing what children reading and looking at online in their libraries. (The obvious exception to this is anything that violates library policies, such as viewing pornography, hate speech, etc.) They view it as the responsibility of parents to monitor their children’s activities and to prevent their children from being exposed to anything that they as parents deem inappropriate. Libraries and their staff exist to provide and enable access to information; whether or not that material is used, and how it is used is up to the patron.

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So, should minors have equal access to information? Who bears the responsibility of monitoring what children read and view online? Are there any positive aspects to the censoring of materials based on age?

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This entry was posted on March 6, 2011 by and tagged .
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