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FOLLOWUP: KCLS Director Responds to Resident Concerned About Explicit Anime

KCLS Director Bill Ptacek.

Our post [1] 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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