Joanne Jacobs links to a story about a couple of library workers (not technically librarians) who were fired for mishandling a book they found offensive. (Apparently the book, a graphic novel instended for adults, includes explicit sexual images.) One of the employees checked out the book to keep it off the shelf. She kept renewing it, over and over - till someone requested the book, and the computer wouldn't allow the renewal. The library worker checked on the requestor, and found it was a child, so she canceled the request. At some point, her plan was discovered, and she and a complicit employee were fired.
These two library workers' actions were wrong, but I understand their motivation.
When I was a kid, I had free access to the library. I got there on my bicycle, and had my own card, and could check out (or read in the stacks) whatever I wanted. Of course this was a long time ago now, before DVDs or even videos, and when graphic novels were mostly called comic books (Archie and Veronica, anyone?). But still, I can remember wandering in the "adult" section and reading books I shouldn't have been reading.
Now, my kids have their own library cards. They can check out any book, as far as I can tell. But they can't check out movies except those in the children's area. That means they can't acccess the MacGyver DVD they are watching right now, National Geographic nature documentaries, and R-rated fiction movies. That's a little inconvenient for me, mainly because once in a while we'd like to get more than the 4 DVDs we can take out at once. But, we manage to get by.
It would be nice if each book or movie could be assessed on its own content and coded in such a way that a child can't take it out if the content is too adult-oriented. But that's just impractical. I suppose there are parents who wouldn't want their 10-year-olds watching MacGyver. And it wouldn't stop anyone from reading something they shouldn't while in the library.
Most of the comments on the news article were very critical of the library workers. Many pointed out that it's the job of the parents to monitor their child's reading material. Yes, that's right. But I don't think people can depend on that. I look over the books my kids check out, but I doubt everyone does. And if my kids were, say, going to the library on their own after school, I might never know what books they had.
I'd like to think my kids wouldn't hide inappropriate books from me, but I know it's a possibility. Actually, I wish that there were no inappropriate books in the public library, but I guess not everyone would agree with my decisions on what could stay and what would have to go. (Yet, they should. I'm so reasonable.)
Words, and images even more so, stay with us. You can't unsee something. Kids do need to be protected from their own curiosity sometimes.
I don't have an answer to this problem, except to be vigilant with my own kids as long as I can.