Public Library Pitfalls

Growing up forty years ago, my brothers, sisters, and I would often visit our local public library — especially during the summer months when we were not attending school. Usually, our parents were not with us during these visits as we lived within biking distance of the library. At that time, many of the current methods of entertainment (streaming music and video, DVDs, etc.) were not available. In the 1980s, the internet was in its infancy and not accessible to those outside of universities or the military.

At home, we did not have a television set, and instead, relied primarily on books to take us on adventures and experience historical events in our imaginations. As we grew older, graduated from high school, and attended college, we had less time for leisure reading. Now, as middle-aged parents, we are taking our children to the library. But, unlike some things in life, public libraries have not improved with age.

Public libraries have changed significantly over the last 40 years. Books promoting immorality have been part of libraries for decades, however now these themes are showing up in books for young people. Many books speak about “free love” and describe sexual acts without consequences; committing adultery seems quite normal. Books with LGTBQ characters are featured conspicuously for curious, young readers. Our local library featured a book about a little girl with “two mommies” on a shelf in plain view, easily accessible by its target audience — children. The children and young adult departments of our local libraries now contain large numbers of books dealing with horror themes as well as magic and fantasy motifs. Biographies and stories relating important historical events are now written from a left-wing “social justice” inspired point of view. They focus on marginalized persons, on “social justice” for the underrepresented and oppressed in society. When such books refer to religion, they give the impression that God’s Word deals solely with “social justice” – which can then become a religion of its own.

Some public libraries have a section dubbed “Christian fiction” or something similar. This might cause one to automatically believe that these books could be considered “good books”. However, the religion in those books is mostly a cheap, superficial religion which consists of “thanking God” and “always trusting God” during times of trouble. These books breathe Arminian thoughts and ideas which we should avoid. It is rare, in these types of books, to read about a sinner who became guilty before God and men. We do not hear how the Lord leads His people and begins His work in their life. Instead, these books generally speak of a religion where the characters begin immediately to “trust in God”. These types of books begin to sow the seeds of doubt about experiential truth as taught in the Scriptures. The question can then come to mind: is it really  necessary for us to be converted according to what we hear preached in our churches? Are we the only church denomination which teaches the truth and necessity of conversion according to God’s Word? Are all of the other churches and denominations wrong? Do we become jealous of those people who can trust in God so easily, despite their circumstances and difficulties? Dear friends, do we see the danger of slowly, but surely, getting more detached from the experimental truth and drawn into an Arminian lie?

In addition to lending books, many libraries have, for many years, made DVDs and Blu-Ray discs available for borrowing by patrons. Over the last decade, libraries have added iPads, Chromebooks (with an included wifi hotspot for internet access), and video game consoles (for playing video games at home). One very popular item are the take-home internet hotspot devices which allow a library user to get internet access wherever they take the hotspot device. These items are either available for free, or for a low rental fee.

Computers with internet access are often freely available in libraries, for children as well as adults. And, even though the “Children’s Internet Protection Act”, in the United States, requires computers used by library visitors to have filtered internet access , children are still able to access a multitude of topics and1 information which we would not allow into our homes. Canadian parents should be aware that their local libraries are not governed by a similar “Protection Act” It might be wise to only allow computer access at2 home where the computer (and mobile devices) can be electronically and visually monitored.

As can be imagined and considering how libraries have evolved in the past forty years, giving children, especially teenagers, unsupervised access to all of these materials (and possibly more, depending on the library) would be a huge mistake. Think twice before allowing your younger children to visit the library unaccompanied by a parent or a responsible brother or sister. If parents allow their children to get books from the public library, they should monitor what materials are being checked out, based on the ten commandments. The question should be asked, “How do the contents of this book hold up against the standard of God’s Word and the commandments?” Make some effort to help your children find good, solid literature they will enjoy. True to their sinful nature, and left to themselves, children are often drawn to books and other media that invite them into worlds of fantasy and magic. Moving to books dealing with dark fantasy and the occult is a possible next step. It is of great importance that parents talk with their children about why we must not read certain books and why the contents of many books are sinful in the eyes of the Lord. If the Israelites were warned to, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:31), certainly we should take care in avoiding books and other materials dealing with these evils.

If you have them nearby, visit several local libraries – you may find that one could have less of the problematic materials described above. Some libraries are not so quick in getting rid of older books, which will generally have less objectionable themes and topics.

Seeing that many items in the public library cannot stand the test of portraying a morality according to God’s Word and the ten commandments, the question might be asked, “Are there alternatives to using the public library?” Yes – one option might be for parents to consider acquiring their own “family” library. Over time, begin buying good books from library book sales, thrift stores, and garage sales that might be selling books cheaply. This is something to begin with as soon as children are born as it takes time and some money to acquire good reading material. It’s quite satisfying as a parent, however, to see your children enjoying good books, bought with them in mind before they were even able to hold onto a book.

We had to bike along busy roads when we visited our local library as children. Our parents expressed some worry when we asked to visit the library – mostly concerned about our physical safety. Today, our children’s physical well-being is still important; however, we and our children also need to be protected from the moral and spiritual dangers lurking at the library. We need the Lord’s help and strength to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8).

1 Internet filtering is required in all libraries receiving funding from the United States federal government. Public libraries not receiving federal funds are not required to have internet filters installed.

2 Schulz, K. (2020). Internet filters in Canadian libraries. Pathfinder: A Canadian Journal for Information Science Students and Early Career Professionals, 1(2), 36-50.