Common sense rules at library

Whoops! Another mom has found those naughty manga in her teenage son’s room. In this case, they were volumes of DearS from the St. Paul public library, so she called them and asked if her son had checked them out. The library wouldn’t tell her, so she went to the local newspaper, which contacted the library and learned that if she brought some ID and her son’s library card to the library, they would tell her if the books were currently checked out to his card. Once the books are returned, the record is erased. (Omitted from the story is any mention of why she didn’t just ask her son, or how her son felt about having his private reading habits discussed in the local paper.)

The mom seemed to be OK with that resolution but wondered why the library didn’t have ratings for its books. The library director responded, “I’m not aware of any library that does that, or of any software that could process that kind of information.” And then there’s a quote from the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom about the right to privacy. The ALA’s Judith Krug ends with a suggestion that parents accompany their children to the library and monitor what they check out, which, as any parent of a teen knows, ain’t gonna happen. I wish they wouldn’t even bother saying that, as it’s such a lame suggestion at that age. I doubt this particular kid is going to recidivate, now that his sins have been bared in the paper, which was probably excruciating for him. But once a kid is 14, even monitoring his library visits won’t stop him from reading the book at someone else’s house. A good talking-to is what’s called for here, but there’s not much else that a parent can do at that age.

I’m glad the library didn’t even consider ratings or restrictions, though, let alone pulling the book. Apparently, cooler heads prevail in St. Paul than in Victorville.

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  1. St. Paul is larger than Victorville, and likely doesn’t have a Supervisor gearing up for an election (for Assessor – he won, unfortunately.)

    I find the comments about “ratings” weird though. It seems like there must have been something missing from the conversation.

    Libraries don’t have ratings (dumb in that context and we really don’t need more crap to wade through). But we do seperate books by age; each library has a juvenile and and adult section. Many now have teen and baby areas as well.

    (That’s – initially – what got SB County in trouble – the manga retrospective was marked and shelved as juvenile when it shouldn’t have been. Indications are, in that case, the kid himself didn’t realize what he was getting. Not, um, that it was all that bad or graphic.)

    Plus, if the mother is really that worried, she can restrict what her son can check out on her card. The default (at least in my system) is to mark a card as juvenile, but not restrict what can be checked out on the card. It is possible, however, to restrict the card of a minor to only allow them to check out books in the juvenile section.

    That would be stupid – especially for a 14 year-old, but it’s usually possible.

  2. Oh, this is annoying….I have presented several workshops in libraries now, and each time we have seen books with a clear 16+ rating sat on the shelves where any kid could pick them up. A document really needs to be created and sent to libraries informing staff of manga age ratings. The staff we’ve spoken to have always been keen to learn, but many were simply not aware previously that there were ratings on these ‘comics’. Tokyopop in particular are very good at making sure their books are age rated.

    At one library in particular, we were shocked to see issue 7 of Fake sat amongst the narutos and dragonballs….we immediately showed a staff member why this book should not be classed as a children’s comic. haha. Bless her!

    If ratings aren’t followed, we could end up seeing the whole manga tower that has been carefully built up falling down…

    This said, we have met a few people working in the library back-stage who are very well informed and are doing a fab job. It’s just a case of spreading that knowledge.