Monday, January 28, 2013

Libraries and the First Amendment

"Libraries need to be more strict about who we borrow books and other media to."

Have you ever been to a bad Library?  By that I mean one that would not allow you to check out any items?  They exist, I can assure you.  They intend for their qualification process to exclude 'the undocumented', those who lack photo ID's or other identification paperwork.  Some even require call references, and forced annual patronage under the threat of losing access to some media.  I've personally seen policies in public libraries that bar anyone from under 21 from checking out movies.

These actions do not embody the best of Public Libraries are or could be.  

Information is THE thing that lifts people up, affords actual equality, and provides a path to a better life.  Public Libraries are literally the gateway into our society.  Therein you can learn our language, stories, and sciences or almost anything else you can imagine.  This portal is open to EVERYONE because therein lie the tools of inclusion, understanding, and assimilation into what who we are.  Requiring anything more than a name and a written promise to return the material in a timely manner is creating a barrier to speech, a clear violation of the First Amendment. Enacting 'paperwork policies' including requiring bills or even a picture ID keeps some people from 'qualifying'.  Like the laws requiring a picture ID to vote, along with your voter's registration card, this amounts to a poll tax. We know it's wrong to charge someone for something that is supposed to be 'free' to everyone.  

Now imagine an 11 year old child, who is VERY sheltered by overbearing restrictive parents.  They are only allowed to read the Bible...over and over again, no TV, music, or literature of any kind.  He/she has no ID, no bills with his/her name on it, and no guardians who would provide such documentation.  As a Public Library, OUR JOB is to offer unrestricted access to any information he/she might request, in a completely private manner, period.  By refusing information to a child seeking without their parent's permission...we keep them locked in an intellectual prison, utterly denied the only keys available to their liberation.  

Information is more than's mental liberation...the thing that brings awareness of individual freedom and spurs further insight and ability.  We can not and should not run Public Libraries like impenetrable fortresses or shrinkage proof storehouses, but rather as open welcoming free flowing avenues of free information.  The better more informed more people are, the better and more informed society might be.  

Library Rights are something I am very passionate about.  If you see them abridged or denied, I urge you to fight to change it.

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