Further Reports from Annual Conference

By Sloan, Bernard G. | American Libraries, September 1985 | Go to article overview

Further Reports from Annual Conference


Sloan, Bernard G., American Libraries


Librarians look at censorship within the profession

"If we as staff are fettered in our attempts to convey ideas...then our professionalism is diminished," said Rosalind Goddard of the Los Angeles Public Library, opening a Professional Ethics Committee program on a priori screening by library directors of articles and statements by staff members.

When Patrick O'Brien was director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, a staff member published an inaccurate article dealing with one of the library's vendors. As a result, O'Brien issued a memo requiring prior approval of all articles involving the library. As director of a system with a powerful board, O'Brien said, he was often reminded that he was ultimately responsible for statements of his staff. However, he added, he only wanted to insure accuracy, not to censor, stressing that "censorship has no place in the library, especially within the profession."

The strongest statements against a priori censorship came from two nonpracticing librarians associated with the library press. Stating that expsing problems in a library can often benefit all libraries, Library Journal editor John Berry proposed tactics to overcome a priori screening, including serving as an anonymous source, publishing without permission as a fait accompli (punishing the uthor would be a worse public-relations problem), and seeking support from the ALAhs Intellectual Freedom and Professional Ethics Committees.

Calling a priori censorship "one of the most shameful practices in our profession," Eric Moon said it has survived and flourished mostly underground because there is "a pervasive nervousness about hanging one's laundry on the line." Moon criticized librarians for defending the First-Amendment rights of pornographic filmmakers and student newspaper editors but being "less willing or able to do something about the transgressors in our own ranks" and taking "no action against librarians censoring other librarians."

Libraries & cable: public-access honemoon over

The trend toward complete deregulation of the cable industry means libraries must decide whether cable-based services make sense if libraries have to pay for them.

In program sponsored by the LITA Video and Cable Communications Section, Carl Pilnick of the Telecommunications Management Corporation, Los Angeles, explained that the deregulation of cable accomplished by the Cable Communication Policy Act of 1984 points to a "complete reversal" by the cable industry regarding provision of public-service cable channels. Cable grants to libraries are essentially over, Pilnick said.

The awarding of cable franchises by cities is nearly complete; therefore, cable companies are no longer competing for franchises. Since public-service commitments were "bribes by companies to get franchises," according to Pilnick, cable companies now want to get out of as many of those commitments as possible.

Several provisions of the new cable act support the exodus from low-cost or free public-access channles. 1) Beginning in 1987, cable companies may charge any price for services, and may charge for public-access channels. They may also determine what services they will offer with no input from a community.

2) The cable franchise renewal procedure now provides nearly automatic renewal of a franchise, with cities able to object to cable performance in four broad, not easily proven areas. The strongest area for objection is that a cable company's plan for renewal is not satisfactory in light of community-related cable needs. However, a cable company may take objections to court, and a city cannot deal with any other cable company until the case is settled.

3) Although cities can bargain with existing cable franchises for community channels and programming, new franchises are not required to provide such services. And thanks to the new cable act, when an established franchise comes up for renewal, it is regarded as a completely new franchise, not subject to previous agreements and bound only by the new act. …

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