Robot 6

Hertfordshire libraries restrict graphic novel borrowing by age

The-Boys_Volume_OneThe public library system in Hertfordshire, England, has restricted who can check out graphic novels that are classified as “adult” — which includes not only mature-reader titles but also comics aimed at a broader audience, such as Batman and The Avengers, according to the local newspaper.

Often, these sorts of stories start with a parent who is outraged to find a child checking out or browsing adult materials. In this case, however, the issue was simply one of proximity: When Louisa de Beaufort brought her two children to the public library in her small town of Harpenden, she noticed that graphic novels of an adult nature were on the other side of the bookshelves that held children’s books. What’s more, mature-readers graphic novels in the adult section were shelved alongside tamer titles.

De Beaufort used her child’s library card to borrow not one but 10 mature titles, including The Boys, Crossing Midnight and Fatale, at a self-checkout station in the library. She then complained to the staff that any child could check out any book.

As another newspaper notes, de Beaufort is a supporter of a national organization called Child Eyes, which is dedicated to keeping adult materials away from children, and it seems to have gotten involved, although it’s not clear how. Child Eyes claims it doesn’t advocate censorship, but rather keeping inappropriate materials away from children, and it mounts campaigns to keep tabloid newspapers (which often feature not just salacious headlines but also semi-nude photos of women on Page 3) away from the toy and candy section of supermarkets. In this case, however, it did amount to censorship: The library has now restricted loans of all graphic novels shelved in the adult section to readers over 16. In addition, graphic novels classified as “mature” cannot be checked out by anyone under the age of 18.

The problem now, as one longtime staff member pointed out, is that the older kids for whom these books are perfectly suitable can’t get them:

“Young people are wanting to read things rather than just doing it for homework and we are not letting them.

“With young people especially, their love of reading can be turned off.

“Some do have adult content, but there is a warning by the publisher on them.

“It used to be down to the parents, they have been taking responsibility for what their child has been reading and we have never had any complaints that I am aware of.”

And that’s the nub of the matter. De Beaufort’s children are under 10 and, quite frankly, unlikely to pick up The Boys to begin with. But what about the 14-year-old who wants to read The Unwritten or The Walking Dead? (Both are rated as 17+ by the publisher, but anyone who knows teenagers knows they read up, and anyway, it’s a publisher’s suggested age rating, not the law.) In the United States, the American Library Association opposes age restrictions on the grounds that they violate the Library Bill of Rights, and that the First Amendment applies to children and teenagers as well as adults. In Hertfordshire, on the other hand, teenagers are now barred from checking out a Spider-Man trade paperback because the only resolution the powers that be could come up with to this complaint was to hit it with the bluntest hammer possible.

(via the CBLDF blog)

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7 Comments

Ideally I agree with the Librarian code of open access to all info, but there’ll always be a part of me that definitely feels thing like The Boys, Crossed, and certain books from creators like for example Howard Chaykin shouldn’t be easily accessible to kids below a certain age.
The matter is definitely further muddied by the relatively arbitrary age guidelines used by comic companies.
I’m not a librarian or a parent though, so defer to people who’ve spend more time considering this thorny subject.

I’m a parent, I have children, I police my children’s reading.

It really is that simple.

The library should not police who has access to what.

Not everyone has good parents, you say? Then maybe that’s the problem that needs fixing and not that my children can possibly check out The Boys . . .

As a matter of fact my 9 year old is happy with Ninjago and Adventure Time and wouldn’t go anywhere near anything superheroic much less anything with such a gritty and ultra realistic art style.

Which brings us to another problem of why kids aren’t interested in superheroes but . . . this is about censorship, which this clearly is.

Yes move it to the adult section, no, don’t discourage teenagers from reading something.

Books should be shelved appropriately (most of graphic novels at my local library are shelved together and are designated YA, with some in the Junior section), but no one should be prevented from checking out anything they wish, regardless of their age. A young child wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be alone at the library, anyway, and it isn’t the library’s place to police their patrons.

Lazy parents who want to shift the burden of watching over their kids to others. Many parents don’t even know how to have meaningful conversations with their kids. Or maybe they don’t want the trouble of guiding their kids to cut on their free time.

In extremis, this is the same mentality of delusional parents who never know when their teenaged kids are about to blow and about to do real tragic things. “No, I never realized he/she was going through a rough patch! What do you mean, my kid had problems? I never noticed! I am a good parent. It’s all the fault of those nasty video games/comics/rock music.”

Bah.

I’ve become increasingly skeptical of the idea that children need to be protected from harmful media. I suspect that the idea that children are impressionable is an excuse. The real reason is that people love controlling other people’s media consumption, and children are too weak and powerless to be able to stand up for themselves.

When you try to control an adult’s life they can form resistance movements and campaign against you. But children lack the experience or connections to do so. Plus we can use the “children are impressionable and inexperienced” as a blanket excuse to justify any curtailment of their liberties we want.

What still amuses me is that if you go in to Waterstones book shops in the UK, Tintin in the Congo (which has racist tones) is in a sealed bag on the top shelf. If you look on the bottom shelf there are copies of Crossed, The Boys and Sex which all contain graphic sex elements, open and free to read! I think book shops and libraries need to check the content before placing these books on to the shelves to see where it might be pest to place them. Kids are likely to pick up books and flick through them whether they are going to check them out or not. And as far as kids being “impressionable”, you try working in school classes with them if you want to see how adult material affects them. What’s lost in the world today is the innocence that children used to have, there is so much expectation for them to become adults too young.

As a librarian, this goes against EVERYTHING libraries stand for.

Yes, The Boys and other similar titles are not suitable for children – but Batman? Spider-man?

Shame on this library for not standing their ground. It is not the library’s responsibility to parent your children lady. Ultimately it is up to you to decide what is and what is not appropriate for your own child.

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