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Letter: Are Libraries Infallible?

Published: Friday, March 28, 2014 5:56 p.m. CDT

To the Editor:

If you walk into a library and find an inappropriate bulletin board posting in the children’s section of the library, what do you think will happen to you if you voice your opposition?

If you bring it up to the library’s attention, they will say “thank you” and not remove the posting. If you persist, they state “Libraries do not bow to pressures to remove materials, images or information from our collections/premises.”

The Brookfield library put up a picture of mobster Al Capone in the children’s section of the library for their 1920s centennial display. While I passionately disagree with their choice, I am more concerned about the question, “Does a library have a right to expose our children to anything without recourse?”

According to the American Library Association, Principle II of the Code of Ethics “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.” However, the ALA is clear that the principles of this code are expressed in broad statements to guide ethical decision making.

So did the library act ethically in exposing children as young as five years old to a mass murderer and pimp?

If we now turn to the future of the library’s children’s section bulletin board that highlights historical events for each decade of the centennial, the library very well could choose to put up a picture of native Chicagoan and founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner, for the 1950s display. From my knowledge, he was not a mass-murderer, so he should qualify by the library’s ethical filter for children.

Or perhaps the 1980s display will contain a picture of Salman Rushdie. From a literary standpoint, his fourth novel was the center of a major controversy of freedom of speech and print. Certainly he would meet the library’s ethical filter for what is appropriate for children, even if his picture might be considered unpleasant or difficult to some.

The library leadership has demonstrated poor ethical judgment in this issue and does not need to filter history for the community. Parents and children can determine for themselves the major events for this centennial celebration.

The library’s centennial children’s section bulletin board was a good idea. But not knowing what to expect in upcoming displays, it is time for the library to make the ethical decision to take down this display and let the community celebrate the centennial in peace.

Giorgio DiPaolo


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