January 27, 2013 at 10:11 AM
PATERSON, NJ – City youths looking to hone their “Call of Duty” video game skill can’t do it at Paterson’s libraries anymore.
The library’s board this month voted to ban the playing of direct-shooter video games on the computers at its facilities.
“We felt we should do everything we can to prevent our kids from learning these behaviors,’’ said library board member Irene Sterling.
“We feel a responsibility to the kids of the community,’’ said the library’s director, Cindy Czesak.
The voted was prompted by a petition from library staff members who had been following an unofficial practice of discouraging youths from playing the games. “They would say, ‘C’mon don’t you have some homework to do instead of playing this,’” said Czesak. “They asked the board to give them something more official. They wanted something more than their own common sense.’’
The city’s libraries can’t block the games from the computer. That’s because they’re part of an electronic shared system with about 18 other libraries. But now library staff can require anyone playing the games to stop, officials said.
At present, the only material blocked from the city’s library computers is child pornography, Czesak said. The computers allow patrons to access adult pornography, but the library’s policy is not to allow folks to watch sex films, officials said.
Also, children are not allowed access to chat rooms, the director said.
The idea of banning anything from their facilities gives many librarians pause. “Most library policies tend to be very libertarian,’’ said Sterling. “The whole idea is for the free flow of information.’’ Czesak said some libraries around the country have turned down federal funding because they believed so strongly against banning or blocking certain materials.
Czesak said library officials tried to balance their First Amendment responsibilities with their commitment to do what’s best for Paterson children. Unlike some towns, where children often are supervised by their parents while at the library, Paterson libraries have many youths who come in on their own, she said.
As a result, the library staff takes on more responsibility overseeing what they do with the computers. “We play a different role,’’ she said.