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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Friday, July 18, 2008
The Secrets of the Library

My oldest boy lost his library card, it happens to the best of us, it also happens me. As the youngster was otherwise detained, I stopped by a local branch of the library to get a list of the books he had out.

I talked to the librarian at the front desk, told her my story, and she asked me how old was my boy. She then denied my request saying that once a patron turns 12, that his library records are considered private information and are restricted from even his parents.

So let's get this straight.

I can go down to the boy's school and pull his records any time I want. I can go to his doctor and do the same. However I have no right to know what books he is taking out from a library which is supported with my tax dollars. So the least significant dimension of privacy of the three examples I cited is held to be the most sacred. Perhaps the most meaningless dimension as well since odds are the library books he takes out, unlike his school or medical data, has to end up in my house anyway.

Now as a parent I believe in giving kids privacy, but privacy is ultimately a privilege earned and what is earned may also be taken away. Both children have taken to closing their bedroom doors; I allowed this up until the time when I walked into the older boy's room and found him building Legos instead of doing his homework. His door remained open for several weeks after that.

All jokes about my benign autocracy aside, I don't know where the public library gets off telling a parent that they cannot know what their 12 year-old has borrowed. Librarians seem to be a fairly onery lot. I remember after the Patriot Act was passed there seemed to be a mass hysteria among the keepers of the books concerning Section 215 and the government's ability to request patron library records. Perhaps that's what the developers of the library policy concerning parental access were after; that in the heart of every parent of a teenager that there is a John Ashcroft fighting to get out.

Is that so wrong?

I mean to be a John Ashcroft?