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Kids’ library cards get parental controls

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The Salt Lake County Library System is changing its library card policy so that parents who wish to do so can restrict their children's access to certain materials.

Beginning about Sept. 1, parents will have the option of registering their children for a full-access card, or one that would restrict children under the 18 from checking out R-rated videos or DVDs, non-rated foreign videos, or other parental advisory-labelled material.

"We're not the final judge of taste for the community," Library Board President Jim Cooper said.

Since parents should be ultimately responsible for the materials their children use or check out at the library, this new card policy will provide an additional tool for them, according to Lohra Miller, a library board member.

The new library policy, now being finalized, also mentions restrictions on Internet access for minors, though it is not specific on that issue.

All existing library cards will remain unrestricted. Parents who want the new options need to visit their local library and re-register for a restricted card sometime around the end of the summer.

A draft of the library's policy on the new restricted card stresses that under no circumstances will library staff make exceptions or override a parental restriction. Even if a parent is with a child who wishes to check out restricted material, the parent would have to use his or her own card to check out the material.

Why libraries even stock R-rated movies and music with parental advisories has long been a hot issue of its own. Library officials cite the First Amendment and also note that such material sometimes wins big national awards, so most public libraries have it available and let the public decide whether to use it or not.

Cooper said complaints about R-rated materials in county libraries have been very rare in recent years.

Introduction of the new restricted library card option coincides with "Library Card Sign-up Month," which is September.

The Salt Lake County Library System is also planning a related "Connect with Your Kids" campaign later this summer. Special displays will inform parents of the new children's restricted card option. Some fliers will also be printed in Spanish.

The Salt Lake City Library System currently doesn't have a similar card system for restricting access to children. However, in conjunction with the opening of its new main, downtown library facility next year, the library is planning a big library card promotion of its own for next year, to get as many members of the city as it can to sign up for a brand-new style of library card. A new logo for the S.L. City Library System is also being designed.

E-MAIL: lynn@desnews.com