Bill not a substitute for good parenting

Empire editorial

Posted: Sunday, February 29, 2004

Here's a tip for moms and dads who are getting a little tired of all their parental duties: Get a legislator to sponsor a bill so someone else will pick up your responsibilities.

That's what a bill introduced by state Sen. Lyda Green does. The Wasilla Republican has introduced legislation that would require public libraries to give parents access to their children's records on request.

The legislation was inspired in part by a parent who got a call from a librarian that a book her child placed on hold was available. When the mother asked what the book was, the librarian said that information could be released only to the 8-year-old because of privacy laws.

The incident may seem a bit ludicrous and humbling to a parent. But a child has just as much right as an adult to enter the wide world of information and ideas that a library offers. We're not talking about the Internet, after all, where a child may be but a keystroke away from pulling up porn or recipes for illegal drugs.

Kids in middle and high school have freedom of thought and that right must be protected.

Parents have every right to guide their children toward their own belief systems. But if they have philosophical differences with what their children are reading, then they should be talking about them with their children - not using librarians as intermediaries as they police their children's reading list.

Some proponents of this legislation believe parents have a right to know what their children are checking out of libraries because parents are the ones who must cough up overdue fines when books are five weeks overdue. While true, that's not the point.

A better solution is this: Talk to your children. Find out what books they've checked out from their school or public libraries. Kids aren't going to learn much about personal responsibility if their parents are simply talking with librarians about what books are overdue.

Whatever problems arise because parents don't know what their children are reading can be resolved by discussions within the family.

Creating laws because parents aren't talking with their kids solves nothing. To the contrary, such laws passed in the name of protecting children could be in violation of their civil liberties.

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