The Corona California Public Library is a family-oriented, wonderful place to be. That’s why I was so surprised to find R-rated movies on the library shelves.
I had become aware that the library’s policy allowed access to any material by any library patron of any age. Although this sounds wonderful at first glance, when you look closely, there is a slight problem. Children can get a library card as soon as they can write their names. That meant any child with a library card could check out an R-rated movie. I never really considered that there was anything I could do to change this. But the summer before my junior year in high school, I decided maybe there was something I could do.
I felt two people would be more effective than one, so I called my friend Meggie Winn. I explained the situation, which shocked her, and asked her if she wanted to help me do something to change it. She eagerly agreed.
First, we made a petition to get support from city residents. Our petition read: “We, the undersigned, request that the Corona Public Library limit access of R-rated videos, DVDs, etc., to those of age 17 years and older, as is the commonly accepted practice of all other organizations offering such items in our community.” In less than a week, we collected over 1,000 signatures.
What was supposed to be a 20-hour Laurel project ended up lasting over six months. During that time, we participated in meetings with the city council and the library board of trustees.
At the first library board of trustees meeting, Meggie and I were a little nervous. We presented our petition and expressed our concerns regarding the library’s current policy, but we received no more than a “thank you.”
Also attending this meeting was a couple who had become aware of the library policy and had attended the meeting to find out more. Meggie and I were excited to see others concerned about the same issue and were pleasantly surprised when they offered to help us. By the next library board meeting they had collected almost 500 more signatures. They were also a big help in making people in the community aware of this issue.
A few months into this project we received a call from a woman who had read an article in the newspaper about our presentation. She offered to help make people aware of this issue. As a result many other people sent e-mails and made phone calls to the library and city council. It felt odd to have these adults following the lead of two teenage girls.
Although we did have an overwhelmingly positive response, there was opposition as well. Meggie and I always tried to respect those in authority and work within the system. We felt our request was such a simple moral decision that was consistent with every other place that offered videos. However, others didn’t think so.
As the months went by, the opposition stood firm. Soon Meggie and I were being verbally attacked, and false statements were made about the way we had conducted our campaign. A couple of times, we were asked if we wanted to continue with this project. We replied that we would see it through to an acceptable resolution.
We achieved our objective the day before the deadline given to the library board of trustees by the city council. The mayor of Corona was kind enough to help us arrive at an acceptable solution. We finally decided on a policy that allows parents to either restrict or permit their children’s access to R-rated movies. All children’s cards will expire on a certain date, requiring parents to visit the library and choose the level of access they desire for their children.
I found it amazing that with all the emotion, controversy, and delays, the effort of two high school students actually caused people to listen and ultimately change library policy. It took a lot of time and energy to accomplish what we did. But it was worth it all to know that we had persisted and stood for truth and righteousness. In doing so, we found many others were willing to stand with us.