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Elmhurst residents not deterred by library ruling on M-rated video games

ELMHURST – Despite the Elmhurst Public Library's recent decision to not change its evaluation policy toward M-rated video games, resident Jim Schuetz isn't giving up the fight.

"Similar to President Obama, who was very disappointed with the Senate's decision to not pass improved gun control, we're also equally disappointed with the library's decision to not put improved selection criteria and procedures in place around violent video games," said Schuetz, who was motivated by the Sandy Hook shootings to file his request to reconsider the library's selection.

Schuetz and a small group of Elmhurst residents will continue to pursue changes in the library's policy by possibly circulating a petition or working with city leaders, he said.

However, they may have to wait a few years.

On April 16, the Elmhurst Public Library Board unanimously denied a reconsideration request asking for a change in the library's current selection criteria used to determine which M-rated video games to purchase. The board also voted to make that decision effective for three years.

Library Director Mary Beth Campe said she didn't see the public support to judge M-rated video games differently than other library materials. The library uses a number of criteria when evaluating a new purchase that may include reviews, patron requests and the library's budget – but never content.

"Looking at the policies and looking at what we do fundamentally as a public library, it went against policy," Campe said.

The process of evaluating purchases is universal among books, movies and video games.

"It's a very thoughtful process we use when purchasing these items," added library Board President Susan Sadowski.

However, residents who filed the request, including John Nester, argue that violent video games deserve more attention than books or movies.

"What [the board members] refuse to recognize is that video games require an involvement way beyond just reading a story or watching a movie," said Nester, an art professor at Elmhurst College. "It involves repetition. It involves a mental condition that requires the player to bend his mind towards the will of the game."

Schuetz argues that the library makes other decisions to carry items based on content. For example, the library does not carry any video games rated Adult Only.

Campe said patrons have never requested an AO-rated video game, but the library has no explicit policy against them.

"I don't know that it would be something that we wouldn't carry if there was a game that was popular," she said.

While Campe maintains that the library should not censor content available to patrons, Schuetz said he sees an opportunity for the Elmhurst Public Library to be a leader among libraries on what he considers a public safety issue.

There are 129 Mature-rated video games available at the library. Patrons must be at least 17 years old to check them out.

"As a government entity, we are here to uphold the First Amendment rights," Campe said. "As far as the M-rated video games go, our public is using them. They were checked out 2,599 times last year."

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