Library science topics : gems in the dungheap of this blog?

I realized today that I don’t post nearly enough on library themes, other than to bitch about my classes and/or financial aid. There are a couple of reasons for this:

1) There are so many fantastic library and librarian-themed blogs already, such as librarian.net, Library Link of the Day, the lo-fi librarian, and so many more. Plus, most of the bloggers out there are professional librarians, not students. While I’ve got some experience, I’m not working as a librarian or doing anything to really change or stupefy the profession as a whole.

2) I am working in a library and don’t want to say anything that might get me or coworkers in the soup, or for this to turn into an For a Break from the Bowels, I Bitch About Work for a Change blog.

But it can be nice to think and write about things other than toilets; therefore, it’s Library Science Time! [squealing synths and laser lights] [Damn you, Doctor Who]

Hows about some personal reminiscence crossed with heavy patron rights/privacy/freedom of information! Woo!

I was working as a technician in a small public library branch a few years ago. Generally, we allowed some policy-bending or breaking, as this library was supported by regulars. (One of the policies demanded a library card or Government-issued ID for every transaction, even though the computer had the capability to look up by name, phone number, etc. It’s tough to convince a patron after seeing them seven days in a row, with their card or ID in hand, that because they don’t have it today, sorry, no check-out for them!) But because we had such a high rate of disappearing DVDs and videos, and no discernible security system apart from our eagle eyes, we cracked down on the media check outs.

A kid who looked to be twelve or thirteen came up and slapped Reservoir Dogs on the counter.

“Card?” I said.

“Um, I forgot it. Can you look me up?”

“Not for a video,” I replied. “Can you get your mom or dad to check it out for you?”

He shot me a disgusted look and slunk away, leaving the video on the counter.

“That’s right,” said the woman who was next in line. “Kids shouldn’t be borrowing that. Don’t you ask their age before you check something like that out to them?”

Given that the film in question did have a pretty graphic cover, I bit my tongue from asking her if she’d ever watched it. She did have a point. The kid wouldn’t have gotten into a cinema-showing of the film. But shouldn’t the reprimand come from the parent? There’s no in loco parentis in public libraries. We shouldn’t monitor what people check out, because it’s none of our business. Is this just a cop-out for me? Should I be protecting youth from violent images they’ll might see on TV, in school, or possibly in their homes? Or should I protect their rights as people to watch what they want? What about when the argument extends to books/materials about guns or explosives?

This article is a grand example of this topic: Kids likely can keep borrowing R-rated rentals from library.

What is most interesting is the revelation that libraries have no legal right to deny people the items.

So when does this allowance of patron freedom to read or watch any materials in a public library (surely a right in this country?) become criminal negligence? I’m assuming after Something Terrible happens.

As far as I can tell from reading library blogs, this is an oft-discussed issue in the library world, and similar to book banning. But rather than back up a discussion with any logical reason, I’ll go with Personal Experience for 100, Alex!

All I remember was it had “Rainbow” in the title, and baby, this weren’t no Gravity’s Rainbow. That’s right, this was one of those with the shiny purple embossed letters, the half-dressed chick and the pantsless man – in short, your typical juicy bodice ripper. I did not pick this book from my assigned summer reading list. It was one of the Old Woman Readers*: a PWP** book full of sexy sex sex.

Even touching the book required some deft planning. The Historical Romance spinners were a good two feet from the YA fiction ones. I stood with my back to the books, and took a few casual steps…and with one swoop, added the rumpled little book to my armload. Heart pounding, I approached the circulation desk.

The librarian stamped my books with a methodical hand. Did I see her hand pause at the fateful title? Or was it my imagination? She finished and pushed them to me.

“Four weeks.”

Looking back, it was really a terrible book. And it didn’t really gain me any carnal knowledge, either. But what do kids know? It’s best to be prepared.

* Thirties-forties is old when you’re a kid.
** Plot-what-plot?

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