Dear Ms. Czesak and Library Trustees,
I am writing regarding the Paterson Free Public Library "banning" violent video games and the false claims made by the National Coalition Against Censorship, et al., in their letter dated February 1, 2013, and published by the NCAC here.
The NCAC has absolutely no power over you except the power you give it. So when you are evaluating what weight to give the letter from the NCAC, please consider evaluating the NCAC itself. Please consider that the NCAC is an organization that promotes pornography [N 1], openly pushes pornography on public libraries [N 2], and supports censorship with double standards and made up facts [N 3]. It makes statements such as "porn is NOT connected with violence against women, child molestation, or divorce." [N 4]
Lest you think it is not possible the NCAC could be misleading communities, think about how the author of the Children's Internet Protection Act requiring filtering in public libraries has revealed that the American Library Association is intentionally misleading American communities to the point where a third have been misled into not using legal means to protect their children from harm [N 5]. And the American Library Association is a silent signatory of the letter as well, as I explain below.
So those are the organizations now pressuring you to do as they say. Let's look specifically at the NCAC letter.
"Video games are protected speech under the First Amendment and, as such, cannot be regulated or restricted by public officials in response to concerns about their message or content." Similarly, pornography is protected speech under the First Amendment, yet the US Supreme Court found public libraries could legally suppress it using Internet filters because a public library is a quasi public forum, not an open public forum [N 6]. The Court explained, in words that may be applicable to violent videos in public libraries, "The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree."
The NCAC goes on to cite an impressive legal case to support its position. But the case does not apply to public libraries, and another US Supreme Court allowed libraries to curtail pornography. It is a bully tactic to use a case that does not really apply. Read the case, but notice how it applies to commercial businesses, not quasi public fora like public libraries.
"The library has not offered any sound justification for removing access to specific games. Instead, according to published reports, librarians are taking this action to 'prevent our kids from learning these behaviors.' This assumes that viewers will simply imitate behaviors represented in fictional settings without any independent mental intermediation, a proposition that is palpably false and that the library implicitly rejects by offering access to all sorts of internet sites and maintaining a varied collection of books, magazines, videos and other materials." Remember, this is from the organization that said "porn is NOT connected with violence against women, child molestation, or divorce." Now it is essentially saying violent video games are "NOT connected with violence." Are you convinced? And notice how the NCAC uses the library's having apparently been misled by the American Library Association into allowing porn on its computers [N 7] as a reason why the library should now also allow the NCAC/ALA to mislead it into allowing children to play violent video games.
"It is no more acceptable for a library to ban access to certain kinds of video games than it would be to selectively remove other lawful materials." Okay, just remember the US Supreme Court allows libraries to filter out lawful porn. So "selective removal of other lawful materials" is done in public libraries nationwide everyday, and with US Supreme Court approval, let alone library selection policy that filters out much more than the library collects."Library officials attempt to justify their decision by claiming that they are acting in parens patriae. However, librarians are not baby-sitters, and they have no way to know that their views correspond with those of parents or guardians." So, you have no way to know whether your views match those of your community, you are told, but you are supposed to align your views with the NCAC. Clever. Let's agree librarians are not babysitters. But that is not the issue. A babysitter would welcome a child playing a video game to make his job easier. Further, regarding library officials not acting to look after children like all other public employees do, that is a made up rule from the American Civil Liberties Union that the American Library Association then forced on libraries [N 8].
"As public officials, library administrators are barred from removing materials merely because they dislike them or find them offensive." Correct, but that is not what you are doing and I bet you do not appreciate the implication that you are. Further, the US Supreme Court, as I explained above, ruled that public libraries are quasi public fora where public officials have every right to remove certain material, such as Internet pornography. The NCAC goes on to cite another impressive legal case that yet again has little to do with the issue of violent video games in public libraries.
"Those who do not wish to play video games do not have to, just as those who do not wish to read a particular book or magazine do not have to." That is the old "avert your eyes" excuse for not using legal Internet filters to block pornography [N 9].
"The role of libraries is not to police the use of a perfectly legal form of casual entertainment, whether the user is a teen or any other patron." This from the organization that says libraries should start stocking porn and that, in this very letter, implicitly mocked you for having a library policy that allowed porn.
Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries
As you are the trustees for your community library and not for the NCAC/ALA's own agenda, you get to decide whether violent video games should be prohibited in your library. It appears it would be perfectly legal to do so, especially in light of the recent school shootings in Newtown, CT. The question is, should you bend your will to the NCAC's and not do what is right by your community and its children just to avoid the implicit legal threat?
[N 1] http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2009/11/ncac-promotes-porn-says-keeping.html
[N 2] http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2012/06/ncac-pushes-porn-on-libraries-fifty.html
[N 3] http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2009/11/ncac-supports-censorship-with-double.html
[N 4] http://ncacblog.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/plaid-ribbons-for-pornography-awareness/
[N 5] http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2012/02/cipa-author-exposes-ala-deception.html
[N 6] http://laws.findlaw.com/us/539/194.html
[N 7] http://www.patersonpl.org/3adultpolicy.html
[N 8] http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/1996/feb96/focus.html
[N 9] http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2012/04/avert-your-eyes-jane-light-got-220983.html