Free Access and Sexual Materials in Libraries

Assignment 5, by Zach Tomaszewski

for LIS 693, Summer 2001, taught by Dr. Rebecca Knuth

Libraries, Erotica, Pornography

During this century, the topic of sex and sexuality has gradually grown less taboo. During the same time, the view of a librarian's role has moved from one of custodianship to one of access provider. Yet even today, as the need for sexual information continues to grow, obstacles exist in providing access, from librarians' personal preferences to community pressures.

Many of these access problems are shared by all materials, such as how to classify them and how to inform patrons that they are available at all. Some aids include more informative and extensive bibliographic records, bibliographies, flyers, pathfinders, etc. Also there is a tradeoff between free access and preserving the materials from vandalism and theft.

It seems that sexuality is as much a part of life, and so a part of librarianship, as other areas of human inquiry. There are numerous arguments against including sexual materials, but many begin with the assumption that materials on sex are ugly, disgusting, or inappropriate. As with all topics, libraries must strive for balance, inclusion, and freedom of access to sexual materials.

ALA Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights

2.3  Access to materials and services should not to be restricted on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

2.5  Libraries should maintain a written selection policy; materials in the collection that meet this policy should not be removed for other reasons.

2.6  Collection development should be inclusive, rather than exclusive, and should try to meet the needs of the community while tolerating all views.

2.10  Expurgation or "editing" is censorship since it restricts access and affects the full idea of a work.

2.14  Access to materials should not be restricted--physically or psychologically--except in a strong need for physical preservation.

2.15  Rating or labeling systems as a way to distinguish "objectionable" materials should not be used. (This does not apply to directional guides and access aides.)