Big Brother#039;s library police are coming

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

When I was in high school, there was rumor about the librarian. On more than one occasion I heard stories about how she "monitored" the magazines that came into the library.

It seems she was unhappy with some of the advertisements, particularly those relating to women's undergarments. The story circulated that she grabbed the magazines when they arrived and cut out ads featuring bras and panties.

I am not sure why unless she was concerned about the young men spending more time looking at magazine ads than reading the classics.

Although I never actually saw evidence of this censorship, I didn't like it when I heard the rumor. For one thing, it seemed plain silly. I mean if a guy wanted to see bras and panties he could grab his mother's Sear's catalog.

A person putting her own values or hang-ups or whatever on everyone else by deciding which ads stayed and which ones went really bothered me.

While that is a rather tame version of "Big Brother," there is a much more frightening thing happening in today's America.

What we read is being monitored. Libraries and book stores are being asked to keep track and report if certain material is read or purchased. I heard that in a news report today.

They didn't go into detail about what is on the list of forbidden stuff, but they said some libraries have posted warnings so people know their selections are watched.

Have we really become that paranoid a nation? Do we see terrorists lurking in public libraries and at Barnes & Noble? What kind of dangerous books are hiding on the library shelves?

Who in the heck decides what reading material hints at underlying evil intentions? Is it a judgment call or are there specific guidelines for reporting? And what happens if you get "reported?" Do the book police show up at your door?

I understand that we must protect our homeland, but we must also protect our rights and our freedoms.

One of the great things about this country is the openness that exists. We are free to learn new things, think in individual ways. We cannot be afraid to explore different ideas, search for answers to puzzling questions, and we can't limit access by intimidation.

A lot of things changed when two towers fell in New York City, but we should not let that event and those behind it change who we are, a nation of free people.

I remember several years ago there was a stir about banning certain music. (Don't misunderstand, there are lyrics I find offensive, so I don't play that music at my house. It's called exercising freedom of choice.)

Anyway, in the discussion about music censorship, there was a person who said something that got my attention. David Lee Roth, sporting long bleached hair and wearing spandex, asked a question about who decided what music was acceptable.

Anyway, he turned the tables when he said something along the lines of, "How would you like it if I was the one deciding?"

It got a laugh because, well, it was David Lee Roth, but his comment carried a serious message about our rights as Americans and who we are willing to give our power of choice.

Monitoring what we choose to read has gone way beyond a high school librarian cutting out advertisements, and that makes me as uncomfortable as finding a magazine with a missing bra picture.