School library software tests parent-controlled censorship system

Follett is complying with new laws with as little privacy invasion as possible.

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A popular school library management system is testing new features to allow parents more control over what their children check out at the library. Because, you know, the level of surveillance software already used on children just wasn’t enough for some people.

Follett School Solutions, the company behind popular Destiny software used in school libraries, says it’s working on a new opt-in module that would allow parents to receive a notification for each book their child checks out of the library, including a summary of the book and any relevant tags. The same module would give parents the power to create, through their own Destiny accounts, a list of materials their children will not be allowed to check out.

Follett CEO for Software Paul Isle has specified that the new module would force the burden of enabling these features upon parents. Schools will not have the option to turn on notifications for all parents; nor will parents be given any sort of suggested titles to ban for their children.

Moreover, Follett will not include the new module in standard Destiny installations.

A legal issue — It would be easy to call Follett out for creating these new software options — but, as the company specifies, it’s doing so only to comply with new state laws that have either passed or soon will be. In Florida, for example, the Parental Rights in Education law requires schools to allow parents to be notified of just about everything their child does in school. Failure to comply with these new laws in many cases calls for criminal punishment for librarians.

In a lengthy write-up in’s newsletter, Follett says that:

... providing these features will address the requirements with the least level of information required by the new laws. Developing these limited tools also makes it less likely that district system administrators will create more intrusive work-arounds or move to other products will less regard for student privacy in response to new requirements for oversight into the reading materials accessed by students in K-12 schools.

But kids will find a way — The creation of this new module is dystopian on many levels. On a basic level, it furthers the agenda of those who would ban certain books from libraries for being too controversial. It’s also yet another method by which surveillance will be normalized for children. Such a watchful eye leaves little room for independent thought.

These are symptoms of a much larger problem: State and local governments are becoming increasingly bold in declaring such technology not only legal but compulsory. Technology becomes a liability, in these circumstances.

These government bodies will have difficulty controlling what children do, though, no matter how authoritarian they try to be. Kids will always find a way around rules. Having a friend check out that sci-fi novel you’ve been eyeing up, for example, isn’t exactly something software will be able to catch.