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Carnegie Library corrupts the morals of a minor!

Ramesh C. Reddy

While browsing through the library collection of DVD’s at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I decided to look at some of the movie’s MPAA rating. Most movies MPAA rating falls under these categories:


To my utter shock, I found out that children can borrow restricted movies from the Carnegie Library without being accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. These ratings are meant to be advisory in nature to help parents/guardians to make the right decision in deciding what movies their children can watch.

The library does not have any rule or regulations that prevent children from getting these ‘R’ movies some of which have language, violence, nudity, gore, sexuality, etc.

Libraries are supposed to be a safe place for children where they can go and get books, magazines, videos, DVD’s etc without having to have access to restricted material. This is not the case however.

A source at one of the libraries told me that libraries are all about freedom and they do not restrict any movies to anyone with an adult library card. On the surface that sounds reasonable except the libraries definition of an adult is not the same as the court’s definition of an adult of legal age. The courts definition is anyone 18 or older is given adult status. The libraries definition is anyone 14 or older is given adult status for a library card.

This means any child that is between the ages of 14 – 17 will be treated as an adult when it comes to borrowing material. It does not matter if they want to borrow ‘R’ rated movies with language, violence, nudity, gore, sexuality, etc because in the eyes of the library, they have an adult library card.

When and how the library decided to give children between the ages of 14 – 17, an adult library card is not known but that should not have ever happened because of the situations the libraries face now.

Now, they cannot stop children who want to borrow R-rated material unless they change their regulations when it comes to borrowing movies. They should change their regulations to anyone 18 or above to borrow restricted movies.

Many rental businesses and theaters care enough to restrict those under 17 from borrowing or viewing an R-rated movie without an accompanying parent or guardian even though they lose that sale. Even cable companies have parental control features that allow parents to block ‘R’ rated material on their television sets.

Yet, the library allows children to borrow those same materials that a rental business would have turned them down from borrowing. This is not right!

The library is free to the public but that does not mean the library should have the freedom to allow any material from entering the hands of children,

The classic argument has been that it is the responsibility of the parent to make sure their child knows what they can and cannot borrow and not up to the libraries to regulate that material.

Is it really?

I beg to differ! In this age of videos and DVD’s that have content that even some adults shudder at, these libraries have a duty to protect children that come under their wing.

There is a reason that the courts have ruled 18 to be the age of an adult. Until then parents/guardians are responsible for the well being of their children. Lot of people do not like to be considered a child if they are between the ages of 14 – 17 but in the eyes of the court they are.

Because they are children they cannot engage in certain acts that would be legal for adults to engage in but the library allows them to borrow restricted material! This is wrong!

Let us look at what minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from engaging in Pennsylvania (PA) and compare that to allowing minors to have an adult library card between the ages of 14 – 17.

When it comes to the list below, minors do not have many rights accorded to adults of 18 or over according to Pennsylvania law.

Abortion - PA prohibits unemancipated youth under the age of 18 from obtaining an abortion without either parental consent or a judicial bypass. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3206)

Age of Majority - In PA, the age of majority for most civil purposes is 21. (1 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1991; (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5101)

Alcohol – PA prohibits the purchase of alcohol by, or the sale of alcohol to, youth under the age of 21. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6308)

Cigarettes - PA prohibits either the possession or purchase of cigarettes by youth under the age of 18.  (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6305)

Contracts - In PA, the contract rights of youth under age 18 are restricted and/or infancy of the obligor is a defense to the enforcement of a simple contract. (13 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3305 (infancy is a defense), 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5101)

Driver’s License – In PA, a youth must be 18 years of age or older to be issued a driver's license free of restrictions or prerequisites. (75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1503)

Firearms – In PA, under Federal law, youth under the age of 18 cannot possess a handgun or handgun ammunition. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6302)

Foreign Travel – Youth under the age of 18 cannot obtain a passport for foreign travel if the custodial parent objects. (22 C.F.R. § 51.27).

Gambling - In PA, youth under the age of 18 are prohibited from participating in certain forms of

– PA prohibits youth under the age of 18 from purchasing lottery tickets. (Stat. Ann. tit. 72, § 3761-309)


Bingo – PA prohibits youth under the age of 18 from participating in bingo games, or only allows youth under the age of 18 to participate if a parent consents. (Stat. Ann. tit 10, § 305)


Pari-Mutuel Betting – PA prohibits youth under the age of 18 from engaging in pari-mutuel betting. (4 Pa. Const. Stat. Ann. § 325.228)

Jury Duty
– PA prohibits youth under the age of 18 from serving on juries. (42 Pa. Const. Stat. Ann. § 4502)


Labor – PA prohibits the number of hours per day or hours per week that youth under the age of 18 may work in non-farm employment.

- PA absolutely prohibits youth under the age of 18 from marrying, or only allows marriage with parental consent. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1304)

Military Service
- Federal law prohibits youth under the age of 18 from enlisting in the Regular Army, Regular Marine Corps, Regular Air Force, Regular Navy, or Regular Coast Guard without the written consent of the youth's parent or guardian. (10 U.S.C.A. § 505). Youth under the age of 18 cannot be drafted. (50 App. U.S.C.A. § 454).


Pawning Property – In PA, youth under the age of 18 are prohibited from engaging in transactions with pawnbrokers. (63 Pa. Const. Stat. § 281-29)

– PA prohibits the sale or delivery of ‘material that is obscene or harmful to minors’ to youth under the age of 18, or only allows sale or delivery if a youth's parent consents. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5903)

– PA prohibits youth under the age of 18 from obtaining a tattoo, or only allows a youth to obtain a tattoo if a parent consents. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6311)


Voting - In PA, youth under the age of 18 are prohibited from voting. (Stat. Ann. tit. 25, § 2811)

– In PA, youth under the age of 18 cannot make a valid will. (20 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2501)


Compulsory Education – PA makes school attendance compulsory for minors within statutorily-set age ranges. (24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 13-1327 (ages 8-17))

Based on these facts obtained from the Juvenile Law Center, there are 22 things minors are prohibited from engaging in PA because they are not an adult and the state has issues with minors engaging in them.

Yet, libraries think they have the right and power to let children between the ages of 14 – 17 have an adult library card and engage in transactions adults may engage in the library.

There is something definitely wrong with this picture when minors are allowed to borrow material that would be restricted if borrowed or viewed from any other place.

Those who support the libraries right to allow minors to borrow certain material will argue in the name of freedom. But, freedom is not a free pass to engage in acts that are prohibited. The Constitution is for freedom but also to uphold the law. There is a reason minors do not have the same rights as adults.

According to the article written by Vikram David Amar and Alan Brownstein, “The answer courts have given is that because children lack the maturity to make wise judgments, their autonomy deserves less respect from the state than does the autonomy of adults. While paternalistic state regulations are correctly viewed as demeaning when applied to adults, they are considered appropriate, if not necessary, for children.” (

Children lack the maturity to make wise judgments at an age less than 18 according to the courts but the library allows them access to restricted material from their media collection of VHS and DVD’s. I believe this is not in the best interests of the children,

In 1968, in Ginsberg v. New York, the Court upheld a law prohibiting the sale of sexually graphic material that was deemed harmful to persons under the age of seventeen.

Ironically, right after the Supreme Courts decision, few months later the MPAA ratings went into effect on movies.

The court also ruled, “The State has power to adjust the definition of obscenity as applied to minors, for even where there is an invasion of protected freedoms "the power of the state to control the conduct of children reaches beyond the scope of its authority over adults." (Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 170 ).

In recent Court cases, it is clear the goal of preventing children from obtaining expressive materials that might be harmful to them is a compelling state interest. Some R-rated movies fall under that category.

In United States v. American Library Ass'n, 123 S. Ct. 2297 (2003), the recent case considering a challenge to the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), the Supreme Court plainly upheld CIPA stating it was not unconstitutional for expecting libraries to have a filtering software system that protects minors from expressive materials.

With this in mind, the state should be aware of libraries that allow expressive materials to be checked out by children under the age of 17. There are no safeguards for those between the ages of 14-17 but that should change. We can take the CIPA case as precedent to protect the morals of minors from being corrupted.

According to Title 18, Section 5903 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, a criminal code section dealing with obscenity, it is illegal what the library is doing for the law states in section (c) and (c) (1)

(c) No person shall knowingly disseminate by sale, loan or otherwise explicit sexual materials to a minor. "Explicit sexual materials," as used in this subsection, means materials which are obscene or:

(c)(1) any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture, motion picture film, video tape or similar visual representation or image of a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity, sexual conduct, or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to minors.


This means a librarian or check out person shall not knowingly disseminate by loan to a minor any picture, motion picture film, video tape or similar visual representation [DVD’s] or image of a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity, sexual conduct, or sadomasochistic abuse which is harmful to minors.

Yet, the library in the name of freedom is knowingly allowing minors between the ages of 14 -17 who have a library card borrow movies or DVD”s that have scenes unsuitable for minors to watch and corrupts the morals of a minor.

The library should stop this action because it is illegal and for the protection of the children.

There are ways it can be done without undue hardship to the library and I pray that you will join me in this crusade to prevent the corruption of the morals of a minor, remembering the state considers even 14 – 17 year olds minors.

These are alternate actions the library can implement to protect children from borrowing restrictive material:

1. When someone wants to take out on loan a VHS or DVD movie, the check out person should see what the advisory MPAA rating of the movie is. If the MPAA rating is ‘R or above, they should ask for proof of age. If their age is below 18, they should not loan it to them in line with state law.

2. When someone tries to borrow a restrictive movie, a flag should appear on the computer screen to notify that the person is borrowing a restrictive movie so an ID check can be made. If their age is below 18, they should not loan it to them in line with state law.

3. Rather than giving an adult card to those between the ages of 14 - 17, an adult card should be given to those 18 or above so they alone can borrow restrictive material if they choose to.

4. Two separate cards should be available one for books and one for media loans with safeguards.

These are not hard things to ask and implement for the sake of the children. May we protect the children and not worry whether we are infringing on their freedom. Courts have ruled that the welfare of the child and their protection is more important than their access to certain rights!

Let us hope to see the Carnegie library and all libraries do right for the children. If the state believed that parents alone have the duty to protect their children then the state would not take a compelling interest for the welfare of children but they do and so do I!

Ramesh C. Reddy can be reached at

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More light needs to be shed on Carnegie Library's actions! (Dec 31,05)




JUNE 2005

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