FOLLOWUP: KCLS Director Responds to Resident Concerned About Explicit Anime

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KCLS Director Bill Ptacek.

Our post on the local resident who’s upset with the King County Library System for allowing his 10-year old niece to check out an anime book labelled “For Mature Audiences 18+” has not only generated a lot of Comments – it also got a response from KCLS Director Bill Ptacek, who wrote the following letter to Travis De Nevers:

Dear Mr. De Nevers,

Thank you for contacting the King County Library System regarding the situation at the White Center Library where your 10-year old niece checked out an Anime book that had the sticker “For Mature Audiences 18+” and “Parental Advisory Explicit Content.” You stated that the label is accurate and that the content of the book includes violent and explicit sexual material. You expressed concern that a young girl was able to check out the book, questioned why it was located in a place where children would have easy access to it and asked for a review of KCLS’ check-out practices to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

In keeping with the mission to provide free, open and equal access to ideas and information, KCLS develops its collection to reflect the diversity of the patrons we serve. Materials are selected based on a variety of criteria including, but not limited to, current and anticipated needs and interests of the public and contribution to the breadth of collections. We also expand the collection by responding to requests from patrons, and graphic novels are one of the most requested areas of the collection. When evaluating suggested titles, staff consults industry-related websites, newsletters and blogs. If overall reviews are positive, a title is purchased; conversely, if the consensus is negative, the request is declined.

Although many people associate graphic novels with children and teens, the industry increasingly publishes titles for adults thanks to the popularity of Anime TV shows. The material caters more to Japanese sensibilities than American values and may contain elements rarely depicted in American graphic novels.

The title your niece checked out, “Hero Heels 2” was cataloged as Adult Non-Fiction. All non-fiction titles, including children’s non-fiction, are shelved together. The parental advisory sticker on the cover was adhered to the book by the publisher. KCLS does not apply ratings to its materials but recognizes that certain items in the collection that are popular with some may be considered objectionable by others. For that reason, staff relies on the authority of parents and legal guardians to supervise the reading, viewing or listening use of library materials for their own minor children. KCLS’ Parental Responsibility Policy, which is attached, states in part, that:

“Parents and guardians are responsible for their children’s behavior, safety and welfare while their children are in the library or on library grounds, which includes their children’s access to library materials and electronic resources. KCLS strongly recommends that a parent, guardian or other responsible party be present to supervise children ages 12 and younger. KCLS staff is available to assist parents, guardians and their children in the use of the library; however, KCLS staff cannot act “in loco parentis” (in place of a parent) for children in the library.”

The Policy also states that “KCLS will not limit children to the use of books in the children’s section of the library, as these materials may not meet the needs and interests of all children. In addition, library staff is not responsible for determining whether materials used by children and teens are “age appropriate.”

These policies are not unique to KCLS. They are consistent with public library policies across the United States.

I am sorry that the material checked out was not appropriate for your niece but hope that your family will continue to use the library. Staff is happy to suggest reading materials that are in keeping with your family’s values and can show you how to use the library catalog to find out more information about a book before it is checked it out.

Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Bill Ptacek
Director, King County Library System
960 Newport Way NW
Issaquah, WA 98027

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18 Responses to “FOLLOWUP: KCLS Director Responds to Resident Concerned About Explicit Anime”
  1. Heidi says:

    Parental Advisory is key. However, What is the answer to families that do not speak English yet have bi-lingual children? It presents fact that anyone any age can indeed check out these extremely sexually content and graphic books that are classified Mature Adult , yet are located in the mainstream shelving system along side the GA where CHILDREN have access to them. You can state that it all lies in the responsibility of the parent’s to monitor the content and this is accurate for those who are able to however, the scenario above presents a different case and I would like to see a letter in response to that. The KCLS needs to be responsible as well and admit that you have a role in this to the public to protect innocent children period.

    • Sandra says:

      Well in this case, since it was a GRAPHIC novel, I’m pretty sure the content is obvious without knowing what language the text was in, had the hypothetical parent picked up the book and opened it.

      • Heidi says:

        That is the obvious however, the explicit language still exists regardless and is misleading until deep into the book. Bottom line is KCLS is still partially responsible for having the book and apparently many more accessible to a child to begin with. Luckily , in this case the said Parent’s did pick up the book and looked through it so it has been brought to the public’s attention that such explicit material is accessible to children. Public entities that are supported by the resident’s tax dollars should act in a more responsible manner keeping such material out of a child’s reach because they are vulnerable. You can nit pick it all you want. I don’t see the Parent’s crying victim., I see them informing people that the material is accessible in or through our public libraries whatever the case may be, the material has no business being accessible to a child period.

        • Really? says:

          Heidi, You make good points in your comments. However, there seems to be little difference between book availability and web content availability, for example. Should you have children, would you screen the web content that is so easily available to your children? Mr. Ptacek’s response is appreciated concerning children, but I still have a problem with adults viewing questionable content within our libraries.

          • Heidi says:

            Yes I would screen the material via the net too. Having 3 grown children of my own, now grown adults I have seen what is available on the net accessible to children and the things that they have stumbled on. I have worked in the ECE field for 23 years and I can tell you that not many parent’s do monitor what their child is viewing and know what they have come into contact with whether it be net or the physical world. I’m glad that this parent took the initiative and did look through the book and brought it to the public’s attention. Maybe more parent’s will be extra supervisory when letting their child access our public library system. A parent’s responsibility is for their child’s own well being yes, but for a public entity to have the material accessible exposing a child to sexual content is just as responsible for having it accessible to begin with. Before this story aired I can guarantee that most here putting in their two cents had no idea these type of material’s were even accessible to a child in our public libraries.

      • Sandra: “Graphic” novel refers to the medium–graphics, as in pictures–and not to the content. While some graphic novels may contain graphic content (in this case, sex and violence), it is not the intended meaning of the word in this context.

        In general: I must applaud Mr. Ptacek’s stance. Too often in this country, people will blame everyone but themselves for everything “bad” their children do/are exposed to, and then turn around and take credit for all of their positive accomplishments. We forget that children are people, too, and in many cases handle topics such as sex and violence on a more mature level than their parents seem capable of. They will calmly ask, “What is this? What does it mean?,” while their parents are busy freaking out and lashing out at anyone and everyone they can find, instead of calmly and rationally explaining and contextualizing for their children the content that they have been exposed to.

        You are NOT protecting your children from anything by hiding them from it. If you want them to learn “properly” about topics such as sex and violence, YOU need to take the initiative to explain to them that these things are part of life, and provide the proper context according to your own values and beliefs. Otherwise, they are going to discover it without you, and God only knows how they will handle it on their own. Although, probably better than you would, if all you do is blame other people for it.

  2. Michelle says:

    Now if more people followed Mr. Ptacek’s lead! As a parent or guardian, it’s YOUR responsibility what young children come in contact with. Did this 10-yr old drive to the library, pick books out, check them out and then brought them back into the house? Of course, not!!! This outraged guardian should have gone thru the items the child picked out while in the library, instead of playing the victim (for publicity) later!

    • elizabeth2 says:

      ALSO, this book must have been requested and sent to the White Center Library at the specific request of the parent or the child. WHite Center does NOT have this book in its inventory so this little girl could NOT have been roaming the shelved and found this book.

      Would think we may somehow get the full story, yet.

  3. TcB says:

    Possibly a manufactured problem to try to create an outcry to create censorship of material? Or even more insidious, a high profile story focusing on gay content before an election that will decide gay marriage? Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. The shadow knows!

    • TcB –

      Since I’m the one who spoke with Travis about this story (for 30-45 minutes), I’d like to state that I do *not* think there’s any hidden agenda or conspiracy behind this incident.

      He seemed very sincere in his concerns for his 10-year old niece’s ability to check this book out, and went out of his way to explain in detail what happened as well as scan images from the book and email them to me.

      However, I don’t believe he was familiar with KCLS’ policies, so hopefully this story will enlighten other adults that it’s their responsibility to monitor what children read/check out, not the responsibility of the library itself or of librarians.


  4. Bonnie moormeier says:

    I go to the library very frequently and this is the first I was aware that such graphic books are available for children to check out. Most kids over 11 years of age that I see at the library are not with their parents and I doubt parents are checking backpacks and, like me, I am sure they would be dismayed to know it is so easily available. There should be an option for “parental controls” on library cards just as there are on home computers. Very easy to restrict “mature subject matter” such as this from those under 16 unless parent approves. Gee, even the movie theaters do so. This is not about censorship – this is about common sense.

    • TcB says:

      Do you sit on the panel that decides what is mature? Is gay content set at at higher level than straight content? Is political speech set at mature? Information about pregnancy? Who decides? This is so knee jerk

      • Bonnie moormeier says:

        I’m only suggesting those books that come from the publisher marked “for mature audiences 18+” as was in the case of this particular book. Of course I am not suggesting libraries assign ratings to their books, but is the case where the publisher has, then why not restrict young children from checking it out?

    • anon says:

      The problem with this is that books don’t have ratings attached to them in most cases. Movies use a rating system from the movie industry, and they have a low double digit amount of films airing on any given day. A library has thousands upon thousands of titles without any ratings at all. It would be very difficult to assign ratings to as well, who decides and what counts as objectionable. Do books we encourage kids to read in school suddenly get a pass, does information someone in the community doesn’t like suddenly become mature, or do we just make it worthless and have any book with something some parent might possibly find anything objectionable with locked away leaving nothing but early childhood books out in the open? Also, the library has no business being a parent, they aren’t a daycare to help keep children safe from harmful information. Any child who is alone in the library can just as easily read the book in the library even if they couldn’t check it out, so it really wouldn’t stop anything either.

  5. BisexualLucy says:

    The problem right now is that folks think that graphic novels are disney and marvel for children and teens only. Their not. Manga always was advance(and before it’s time really) in terms of diversity that the U.S. is slowly approaching with the Gay Rights Movement and the materials have to be rated under the same ESRB system as any other book or graphic novel.

    Japanese Graphic Novels has a range of different audiences with different ages and have for years. Clearly on both the front cover, and by KCLS the manga states that it has MATURE content in it WITH a parental advisory stickered on it. Secondly, the manga has GAY themes in it.

    Should entire graphic novels involving GAY-THEMES be hence removed from all shelves because someone’s child wandered into the ADULT section to pick it up in the first place? Why was a 10 year old left to wander around the library UNSUPERVISED by themselves by myself beats me but the library is a place of research, entertainment and education not a daycare.

    It’s like blaming all stores for your kid wandering into the bra section down the Aile, and pulling out an objectionable bra. So now all stores must remove said bras? That’s just dumb.

    Libraries clearly have content for adults separated from teen and children material. KCLS policy is pretty much similar across libraries in the nation. Parents are responsible to monitor their kids just as they are responsible for monitoring them on the net.

    If your letting your kid roam free and getting into things that might be objectionable to your standards then it’s probably best to monitor them in the first place?

  6. TcB says:

    Read elisabeth2’s comment. Apparently, it was searched and requested online, and was held for this person. It was not out on a shelf for any wandering people to find. This is very much a parent thing. I’m sorry for the parent that they don’t do any due diligence with their child.

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