Youngsters who are old enough to obtain an adult card from the Lawrence Public Library are old enough to check out any and all library materials -- including R-rated videos -- the library board decided Monday afternoon.
The board turned down a request from Mary Bennett, a Lawrence mother of five, for the library to restrict access of R-rated videos upon parental request.
Bennett contended that if children younger than 17 could not see R-rated movies in theaters, they should not be able to rent them at the library.
She discovered the library's policy after her son checked out "Sounder," an unrated family film. When she returned the film she learned from library staff that her son could check out any videotape in the library and she could not restrict his access.
Library director Wayne Mayo told the board he discussed the request with library staff members and decided against advocating a parental restriction on library materials.
"We feel if we start putting restrictions on one thing, it will lead to restricting something else," he said.
Ironically, the entire issue might not have arisen if the library had not erroneously issued an adult card to Bennett's son, Mayo said.
Library policy permits children to obtain adult cards at grade seven or at an earlier age with parental approval. Bennett's son is 11 and preparing to enter sixth grade.
Mayo said the library would ask the Bennetts to return the adult card.
As to how the adult card was erroneously issued, "He probably said, 'I'm going into junior high,' " the library director said.
But Bennett said a librarian offered the adult card to her son at the checkout desk of the children's section.
"He was told his card had expired," she said. "She asked him his age, he said he was 11, and she said, 'You're old enough to have an adult library card.'
"If that's the kind of supervision they're giving them, maybe it's just as good they don't mess around with restricting materials."
Bennett said she and her son already had decided they would exchange the adult card for a child's card.
Next year when her son enters grade seven he can reclaim the adult card, Bennett said.
"There are books on the junior high reading list in the adult library," she said. "For him to have access, he would need an adult card. It's good for children to be able to have their own card."
And, from now on, there will be no question of Bennett family members checking out R-rated videos, she said.
"I told the kids not to check out videos," Bennett said. "We just ended that right here, right now."
@endline:* Do you agree with the Lawrence Public Library board's decision to allow youths under age 17 to check out R-rated videos from the library as long as the youths have an adult library card? Answer today's J-W Access question on page 3A.