Anti-Censorship Group Shushes Library For Banning Games

Anti-Censorship Group Shushes Library For Banning Games

I wasn’t aware people play video games like Call of Duty in public libraries, but evidently they do in the US state of New Jersey. Or did. The library board there specifically banned first-person shooters from being played on library computers last month.

The National Coalition Against Censorship, the same outfit that upbraided Massachusetts for yanking light-gun games from state-managed rest stops, has sounded off on the matter. “It is no more acceptable for a library to ban access to certain kinds of video games than it would be to selectively remove other lawful materials,” the NCAC writes, reminding again that “Video games, like other forms of media and entertainment, do not appeal to every individual.

“The role of libraries is not to police the use of a perfectly legal form of casual entertainment,” the letter says.

Librarians at the Paterson Free Public Library had an informal practice of discouraging youths from playing video games, nagging them to do homework or read something else instead. But they petitioned the library board last month to adopt a policy of outright prohibiting the games, according to this story — which specifies them as “direct-shooter video games.”

A ban was needed, said one library board member, because the librarians “wanted something more than their own common sense”, backing up their feelings about the game.

“We felt we should do everything we can to prevent our kids from learning these behaviours,” library board member Irene Sterling said, according to

But the NCAC says it is not a librarian’s job to be a babysitter. “They have no way to know that their views correspond with those of parents or guardians. Moreover, the policy apparently applies to patrons of all ages, including adults and minors who are accompanied by an adult.”

The letter is cosigned by leaders of four other advocacy groups, including the Comic Book Legal defence Fund, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.

Paterson NJ Library Board Votes to Allow Banning Patrons From Playing Video Games [NCAC]
Paterson Libraries Ban Playing of Violent Video Games []

Picture: Shutterstock


  • Is this really a censorship issue or is it an issue of people playing rowdy multiplayer games and a place where silence is the rule? Even with headphones on, you can get a bit carried away when playing FPS games… which is distracting for other patrons.

    • Yeah. I wouldn’t expect to be able to bring my DS into a library and start playing it regardless of the game. Although I guess the role of the library is changing to a place where people without access to their own computer/internet can go to make use of public ones, but it still doesn’t sit right with me that you’d be allowed to use them for games.

      [Edit: That said, it does seem like the library staff are coming at it from a censorship angle rather than a ‘no games in here’ angle.]

      • I’d expect you to be able to play your DS, provided that you did it quietly. The library is there for you to hang out in a quiet environment that provides opportunities for both entertainment and education.

        I know that the St Kilda library in Victoria has quite a good selection of games available for loan, as well as several consoles where you can hang out and play games. It’s a great idea, and I assume they’re not the only library doing it.

      • I agree that it is a silly angle to approach it from. It makes more sense to say you’re doing it for the peace and quite of other library patrons than from some ill-conceived ‘moral-high ground’. It sounds like someone has found a bandwagon and is trying to jump on it.

  • Perhaps they need to look up the definition of what a “Library” means…

    (and by “they” I mean the people that consider playing video games in a library, not the actual librarians)

    • Our library has ps3s and xbox 360s in them, along with a collection of games, none of which could be said to be educational or in any way “library appropriate” under the old definition of library.

      • Hmm, I guess you’re right, maybe the definition of “library” has to be updated or something. I guess I’d never go to a library to play video games. I’d go there to find somewhere quiet to read, do research or maybe use one of the rooms for group discussions. But being able to find video games at a library would be pretty cool, but my 8 year old instinct would be to get it home & play the shit out of it. Unless I could tell my parents I got it from the library!

  • * “We felt we should do everything we can to prevent our kids from learning these behaviours,” library board member Irene Sterling said, according to *

    Wrong angle to take.. why are they using this argument??? a more simple “libraries are meant for reading/borrowing books” and “providing internet use for research purposes” approach would have come across a lot more credible and actually made sense.

    They are a target because they made themselves a target.

  • I don’t like the argument they’re using in favour of banning the game, but I don’t really think that a public library is the appropriate place to be playing CoD. Not on the computers owned by the library anyway.

  • If they banned the game because of noise complaints, etc, then I could understand. It would be perfectly acceptable if it was to minimize noise and disruptions for other people. However, banning the game simply because they want to “prevent our kids from learning these behaviours”, is just ridiculous. Basically they’re forcing their own opinions onto people, opinions based on their own incorrect prejudices.

  • It’s funny if they stopped games being played in the Library I’d be cool with it, when they ban a single genre of game I’m against it.

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