Issue 60, Winter 1995/1996

You might wonder what could possibly be wrong with a group that calls itself Family Friendly Libraries. But be prepared: its true purpose is belied by its genial-sounding name. Family Friendly Libraries is the creation of people who are very angry at libraries — and librarians — and they are hard at work shaping libraries to fit their narrow beliefs and to “protect” the public from the “wrong” books, films, periodicals, and ideas.

Family Friendly Libraries is organizing a nationwide campaign to pressure librarians and boards of trustees to repudiate the “infamous” Library Bill of Rights, the strongly anti-censorship policy statement of the American Library Association. They are urging local communities to adopt their charter in its place.

The purpose of the public library, according to that charter, is not to provide materials and information presenting all points of view. Libraries that do so are dangerous places.

The library’s purpose, says FFL, should be to emphasize the “superiority” of the traditional family — “mother and father, married to each other, committed to a lifetime monogamous relationship and caring responsibly together for their children.” To promote formation and survival of such families, librarians should create restricted areas in their libraries where people would need to request materials on topics which may be controversial, including sexual topics.

Anti-homosexual bigotry provides much of the fuel for Family Friendly Libraries, as it does today for pro-censorship movements across the country. Extremists have learned the utility of tapping into — and deepening — the existing reservoir of fear and resentment at the perceived success of the “homosexual agenda.” Exploiting homophobia, they have learned, quickly polarizes communities and makes reasoned debate nearly impossible.

A local anticensorship group may be the best defense against efforts by Family Friendly Libraries, or others like it, to restrict our freedom to read, to listen, to speak, and to learn. A group that educates others about the importance of the First Amendment before a local censorship controversy erupts will be in a stronger position when would-be censors strike.

Some activities we recommend are:

  • organize educational events
  • write letters and/or op-eds in local papers
  • meet with librarians and local officials to tell them of your support for the First Amendment in general, and for your public library in particular
  • recruit new members, including high-profile community leaders

Most Americans strongly believe in the freedom to read. Many censorship attempts succeed because members of the community never know an attack on the First Amendment is taking place, or they do not understand it in those terms. Outreach to others and education of the general community are critical. Although every censorship controversy is unique, the basic steps listed above are a good place to start.

Please contact NCAC for more material on Family Friendly Libraries, and for more assistance.