Circulating videos to minors

Sally S. Wellman (
Wed, 27 Jan 1999 10:51:19 -0800 (PST)

I thought some of you, particularly those in public libraries, might find
interesting this censorship issue going on in suburban New Orleans. The
article was written by the Intellectual Freedom Chair of the Louisiana
Library Association.

>Hop-Count: 1
>Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 08:14:00 -0600
>Reply-To: Title of LISTSERV list is LLA_GEN_MEM
>Sender: Title of LISTSERV list is LLA_GEN_MEM
>From: Charlene Cain <llcain@LSU.EDU>
>Subject: Outcome of meetings in St. Tammany
>X-MIME-Autoconverted: from quoted-printable to 8bit by id JAA10524
>The following article will be expanded for the association's newsletter,
>It all began when Parish Policy Jury President/ex officio library board
>Steve Stefancik asked the library director to explain the current policy
>regarding circulation of videos and how long it has been in practice.
>director Jan Butler replied that there is no "policy," but there is a
>in place whereby parents filling out applications for their children to
>library cards may place restrictions on what the kids can check out. These
>restrictions can take whatever form the parent wishes, from Goosebumps
books to
>videos. Butler noted that the procedure has been in place for twelve years
>with no problems in all that time.
>Stefancik argued that the procedure was not of the board,s making, and
>therefore its validity was somewhat in question. He believes that the
lack of
>a policy opens the library up to lawsuits. He then moved that no children
>under 17 years of age be allowed to check out R or NC-17 rated videos unless
>their parents have specifically granted permission for them to do so. (Note:
>Several individuals pointed out several times during the course of the 3
>meeting that the library owns no X or NC-17 rated videos, nor has any
plans to
>buy any, but the point kept coming up anyway.)
>About 150 people attended the meeting, with the anti-censorship group
>outnumbering those who supported Stefancik,s motion. Each board member
>his/her position on the subject, with Barbara Morgan, Kristin Lyons, and
>Suzanne Villar categorically opposing Stefancik,s motion, and Kristin Scott
>opposing it in part. Public comments were heard from alternating
>each speaker limited to 2 minutes. In my remarks, I supported Ms. Lyons,
>well thought out and moving speech against restrictions (I couldn,t have
>anything better), but I also complimented those present on the civility of
>their exchanges, and the wonderful "democracy in action" feeling of the
>meeting. I asked the parents to trust themselves to make choices for
their own
>children rather than ask librarians to police them.
>Finally, the board voted four (Morgan, Lyons, Villar, Scott) to three
>(Stefancik, Hart, Muller) against changing the procedure. (Newly elected
>President Mark Johnson abstained, although he made a powerful speech later
>condemning the motion as constitutionally prohibited censorship by a
>governmental entity. He also called the entire discussion a tempest in a
>teapot since no complaints had been filed.) But it wasn,t over. Mr.
>Stefancik then put another motion on the table which would have disallowed
>check out of videos by children under 17 on the grounds that the medium is
>fragile to be entrusted to children. It was pointed out to the board that
>tenor and discussion surrounding the preceding motion would call into
>the motivation of the new one, making it subject to serious legal
>This resolution also failed.
>So, that day, the anti-censorship group won, but two days later the Police
>took up ordinance no.3254, which will require the library board to impose
>restrictions on video check-out. The previous Saturday, the state
chapter of
>the Christian Coalition ran a quarter page ad in the Times-Picayune urging
>citizens to contact their jurors in support of the ordinance . And, at
>meeting, the Police Jury voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance. The
>issue up for discussion will be Internet access.
>For local newspaper coverage of these meetings, see http://
>Charlene C. Cain, Chair
>LLA Intellectual Freedom Committee
Sally S. Wellman
Asst. Coordinator, Special Services
& Manager, Audiovisual Resource Center
State Library of Louisiana
701 North 4th St.
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Phone: (225)-342-4939
Fax: (225)-342-6817