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Library Group Seeks To Encourage A More 'Family Friendly' Focus

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A new group aims to counter what it considers the too-liberal policies that guide the nation's libraries with its own set of tenets.

Although Family Friendly Libraries is focusing on public libraries, its founder says the organization is interested in school, prison, and other libraries as well.

The group's goal is to replace the American Library Association's "bill of rights," on which many libraries across the nation build their policies, with new principles.

"The majority of librarians in the American Library Association are good librarians," said Karen Jo Gounaud, a founder of Family Friendly Libraries.

But, she said, "We hope that the local people will replace those policies that don't work with those policies that do. The best thing would be if the ALA would take a new look at their policies.

"We don't want to be another library association in terms of dictating local policy either," she added.

The group's primary disagreement with ALA principles involves the library association's stance on children. The Chicago-based ALA does not believe it is a library's mission to restrict children's and adolescents' access to materials.

"Our basic policy is that it is the responsibility of parents and only parents or guardians to guide their children and only their children in selecting appropriate reading material," said Judith F. Krug, the director of the ALA's office for intellectual freedom. "This implies a choice. You can't make choices if you don't have a variety of materials, ideas, information, et cetera, from which to choose.

"Libraries, because they are fulfilling the needs of all the people of the community, are never going to fall for all the kinds of personal values that [Ms. Gounaud] is trying to institute," Ms. Krug said.

The tentative articles in the Family Friendly Libraries charter include policies that require libraries to seek out materials that support traditional family values, to follow local community standards and laws in selecting materials, to ban displays of explicit sexual materials, and to encourage residents' participation in setting library policies.

In addition, library systems that adopted the charter would have to have a parent's permission before giving a library card to a child or allowing a child to look at adult library materials. Parents would have access to their children's library records.

No Threats?

Family Friendly Libraries met in Cincinnati in October to organize. Ms. Gounaud was named its temporary president, and Phil Burress, the president of a Cincinnati citizens' group, was chosen chairman. Mr. Burress' group, Citizens for Community Values, has long been active in anti-pornography campaigns.

The other members of the 10-person steering committee, which will be replaced by a board of directors, have experiences similar to those of Ms. Gounaud. She lobbied her local library system in Fairfax County, Va., to limit juveniles' access to some materials and to permit parents to view their children's library records. She also tried to have a free homosexual newspaper removed from libraries there.

Ms. Gounaud said her group has the behind-the-scenes support of such national conservative groups as Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, and Concerned Women for America.

In addition to promoting its charter, the group intends to publish materials for library officials and members.

Ms. Gounaud acknowledged that some people are suspicious of groups such as Family Friendly Libraries. "I don't want people conjuring up demons that aren't there," she said. "This is not a First Amendment threat or censorship."

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