This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, May 22, 1991

May 22, 1991 - Pornography

Two bills are now before the United States Senate addressing the issue of "pornography." One is called the Pornography Victims Compensation Act. It would allow people who believe that they have been the victims of sexual crimes -- even if this claim is denied in a court of law -- to sue producers, distributors, exhibitors, and sellers of sexually explicit materials. The definition of sexually explicit includes materials that have not before been considered "pornographic" by the courts -- and might include anything from popular novels to anatomy textbooks.

The second bill is the Pornography Victims Protection Act. Once again, if people feel that they have been victims of pornography -- let someone take a picture of them while partially clad, for instance, even if they were adults and consented in writing -- they could sue anybody related to the production or distribution of this material.

It has not escaped MY notice that under each of these bills, every public library in the country would be summarily branded as purveyors of illegal material, and could then legally be held accountable for any bad thing that anybody else in the country did, providing that person claimed "that book (or audiocassette or videotape or magazine article) made me do it, and I GOT IT FROM THE LIBRARY!"

Forget about personal responsibility for your actions. Blame the library!

From another perspective, it would strongly discourage any publisher to even consider producing anything whatsoever about anything remotely relating to human sexuality.

So forget about Freedom of Speech, too. We can always use more books about gardening -- but let's keep an eye on those chapters about pollination.

You might want to write Hank Brown about these bills. He sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee considering them. I know I'll be writing him.

All of this reminds of a letter I got about a year ago from a friend back east who also happens to be a library director.

His library owned a particular book about sex education. Because of that, my friend was going to be charged with violation of an obscure New York obscenity law. It was a felony offense. He could have been fined $500; he could have gone to jail.

He wasn't even the one who first bought the book -- it came out long before he took the job -- but he probably would have bought it. It got mostly positive reviews in professional journals. There were even enough advance requests to justify the purchase of two copies.

But like many library books, the title seemed destined for a relatively short life. Like many library books, it was fairly popular as long as it was new, then it nestled back into the stacks and quietly began to deteriorate. One of the copies disappeared, but that happens sometimes. Before too long, the remaining copy would have been withdrawn by the staff to make way for more current materials.

Then a group of extremely vocal people with a name something like "The Parents of Our Children" really ganged up on the library. They wanted that book yanked clear out of the community. A bitter battle ensued involving teachers, students, parents, library board members and the press.

The result?

First off, the missing copy zoomed right back to the shelf. Nobody knew who'd had it, but it was pretty clear he didn't want anyone to find it at his house.

Meanwhile, requests for the title mounted.

My friend wasn't all that crazy about the book, but he was a dedicated and conscientious public servant. When 78 members of the public want to read a book, you have to do something about it.

He bought extra copies. One for every ten requests.

Eventually, the Library Board decided to keep the book, and the uproar slowly died down. Of course, for a while I thought I might have to mail my friend some submarine sandwiches -- the kind with immense metal files in them -- as a sort of housewarming.

I do understand the concern of some people that our popular culture contains too many disturbing images of violence, particularly sexual violence. The answer, however, is not to criminalize any reference to sex.

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