Copyright © 1999 Henrietta W. Hay
Governer Owens vs. Libraries
June 11, 1999
Censorship is alive and well in Colorado. Dr. Laura, darling of the
Right Wing strikes again. Dr. Laura is mad at the American Library
Association, and our new Governor says he is worried about effect of
Internet access in libraries on children. So he vetoed the $2 million
bill which has nothing to do with the Internet, but would have given a
small financial and psychological boost to every library in the state.
SB 93 would have, "Establish(ed) a program whereby the state librarian
will make grants to eligible public libraries, academic libraries and
school libraries for the purchase of educational resources these
institutions would otherwise be unable to afford." The bill passed
with strong support from both political parties.
But Governor Owens vetoed it on the grounds that there was inadequate
protection for children from the Internet, saying, "Parents have a right
to expect that when their children visit public libraries, they will not
be subject to violence, hate and pornography."
I wish I could say what I think, but this is a family newspaper. In a
fifties word, "Hogwash." The bill is not about the Internet. It is a
straightforward attempt to give at least token support by the state to
the library system and take us off the list of backward states which do
not appropriate any money to its public libraries. The others are New
Mexico, Wyoming and New Hampshire.
But the veto is about the Internet and an attempt to censor it. One of
my many bad habits is that I listen to talk radio when I am in my car,
and Dr. Laura does keep my blood flowing. Dr. Laura Schlessinger is
sort of a female Rush Limbaugh, without his sense of humor. In April
she let fly at the American Library Association because it objects to
restricting kids' access to library materials. "The A. L. A.," she
said, "is boldly, brashly contributing to sexualizing our children."
Wow, all the time I thought Mother Nature did that. But she wasn't
through. "And now the pedophiles know where to go."
I try to sit back and relax about efforts of conservative politicians
and radio mouths to control my personal life, but when they attack
libraries and try to censor the Internet I get just a little indignant!
The A. L. A. is a strong defender of intellectual freedom in this
country, and public libraries defend it in their communities.
I think Governor Owens should have spent more time in that building
across Broadway from the state capitol - the Denver Public Library --
and less time listening to Dr. Laura on the radio.
Possibly the most profound change in the intellectual landscape in
centuries, the Internet puts at our fingertips a body of knowledge that
is many times the size of the largest libraries the world has ever
known. Of course modern libraries welcomed it and use it. But at the
same time they recognized its potential dangers and established and are
constantly monitoring acceptable use policies to protect children from
the dark side of the Internet.
For the state to try to control the use of this huge international
communications network by libraries on the grounds that something in it
might harm a child somewhere, is like swatting at a gnat with a machete.
Libraries are not at fault for society's problems. They merely maintain
the record of them and have been doing so since the records were kept on
clay tablets. Locally, the Mesa County Public Library, the Mesa State
College Library and the District 51 Library had planned to use the
money, which they now won't get, for books in special need areas.
Congress tried to censor the Internet in the name of "protecting our
children" with the Communications Decency Act. It was struck down by a
unanimous Supreme Court decision which said, "... it is true that we
have repeatedly recognized the governmental interest in protecting
children from harmful materials. But that interest does not justify an
unnecessarily broad suppression of speech addressed to adults. As we
have explained, the Government may not reduce the adult population . . .
to . . . only what is fit for children."
Dr. Laura, please stick to humiliating your callers and lay off the A.
L. A. You're out of your league.
p. s. I have done all the research for this column on the Internet,
and I didn't find a single picture of a naked woman in my search.