WMass Librarians: No Sign of Censorship Following Adult-Use Zoning

Some of our opponents have argued that significant censorship is likely to follow if adult-use zoning regulations are passed in Northampton. Librarians in Western Massachusetts say this has not been their experience.

NPN’s Jendi Reiter spoke today with librarians in several Massachusetts towns that passed adult-use zoning in the mid-1990s or earlier. We asked whether such measures had set off a wave of censorship pressures.

Margaret Boyko at Top Floor Learning, the Palmer library’s adult-education program, said she had worked there since the 1990s and never experienced any pressure campaign to remove controversial material from the library, or any trend toward censorship in Palmer generally. In 1994, Palmer enacted zoning that would require special permits for adult entertainment.

Carol Leaders, the business manager of the Springfield City Library, also said she had never experienced pro-censorship pressures from government or citizens since Springfield passed its adult-use zoning ordinances in 1993. Those ordinances provide that adult stores need special permits to open within 1,000 feet of homes, schools, and houses of worship, and that other mixed-use stores must create separate viewing areas for adult materials and keep adult magazines and videos hidden away from minors. Ms. Leaders said that when the librarians receive an occasional complaint about some item, they direct the person to the library’s policy on safe Internet use for minors.

Antonia Golinski-Foisy, the director of the West Springfield Public Library, also said she has not experienced any push toward censorship. West Springfield is one of the Massachusetts cities that have enacted zoning changes since 1998 to regulate the location of sexually oriented businesses, mostly book and video outlets, according to the state attorney general’s office (“Zone laws can restrict sex shops”, Union-News, 12/1/95).

Patrons at the West Springfield library can fill out a form requesting that an offensive book or video be removed from the shelves, which the library trustees consider. In the 10 years that Ms. Golinski-Foisy has worked there, she has never seen anyone fill out the form. She heard that a parent asked 15-17 years ago for the library to pull a video of “Terminator” or “Robocop” because it was too violent for her child to watch. Instead, the library agreed to put a block on the child’s card so he could not check out videos that his mother did not want him to watch. Ms. Golinski-Foisy said the people of West Springfield are very responsible about monitoring their children’s media diet, and exercise self-restraint to avoid offensive material instead of insisting that it be banned.

We believe that these libraries’ experience strengthens our case that local citizens can be trusted to implement modest regulations on adult businesses, without harming the cultural vibrancy of Northampton.

5 thoughts on “WMass Librarians: No Sign of Censorship Following Adult-Use Zoning

  1. You are being hypocritical. If you truly believe that the citizens of northampton are capable of policing their own morality, why do we need a law to forbid Capital Video in the first place? Why not let them open and let the market speak for the citizens?
    If you believed the history of the citizenry to be an indication of future impact, then why not take Oh My! as an example? The store, albeit small, has existed for years without significant effect on its neighborhood or immediate town. Why are we to believe that another store would be any different?
    Your “trust” in the citizens of Northampton is laughable.

  2. Oh My has a record of being a good neighbor. Capital Video has a record of being a bad neighbor.

    I would rather trust that businesspeople would use good judgment about where to site a problematic use like a porn shop, but Capital Video, R.J. Greeley and the Goldbergs have shown that trust is not enough in this case. Greeley said that if the citizens truly were concerned, they should pass a law, so we just did.

    We are not talking about banning or censorship, but locating large adult businesses where they will least impact the community. As for the consumption of porn in general, that’s where we’re educating people so they can make informed personal judgments.

    We have seen evidence that suggests how porn businesses tend to attract customers from outside the immediate area, so it’s misleading to frame this as purely a matter of Northampton consumers choosing what should be in Northampton.

  3. The librarians’ credentials are that they are librarians. They are on the front lines if citizens or the government want to suppress a book or other materials in their collection. Their leading professional association, the American Library Association, has a whole section of its website devoted to combating censorship.

    Can you think of anyone better in Western Mass to detect rising censorship if it were occurring?

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