The request to renew the Loudoun County Public Library's annual contract to purchase new materials seemed simple enough.
But when the proposal came before the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday, it sparked a discussion on pornography and gang culture, all thanks to this item: DVD.
"Tax-supported DVDs must end with this board," said Sterling District Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio. "If we aren't going to say no to tax-supported DVDs, then we can't say no to tax-supported pornography."
Delgaudio opposed the library's request to use any of the $985,000 in funds to purchase DVDs. Broad Run District Supervisor Lori Waters, who along with Delgaudio voted against appropriating the funds in a Finance/Government Services Committee meeting June 1, proposed a change in wording to the request that would forbid the library from purchasing DVDs.
LIBRARY DIRECTOR Douglas Henderson explained that the "vast majority" of DVDs to be purchased are educational or geared to children. A small number of award-winning or classic films comprise the remaining DVDs.
Approximately 89 percent of the $985,000 goes to purchasing books. Videocassettes and compact discs, while mentioned in the request with DVDs, were not mentioned in the discussion.
"We have to stand for something," Waters said. "We're the elected officials. It goes to putting our tax dollars behind material that has educational value.
"Libraries are purchasing pornographic material all over the country. It is happening," she added.
"For the life of me, I cannot imagine the library ... procuring pornography," Leesburg District Supervisor Jim Clem said. "I have trust in our employees that they would not."
WHILE WATERS also suggested that DVD availability in libraries would hurt local movie rental businesses, Delgaudio stuck with the moral argument.
"That culture [of popular entertainment] is what we're fighting in the streets of Sterling," he said, adding that the recent rise in gang activity in Herndon and Reston could soon hit closer to home.
"If we cannot condemn the pop culture that is finding its way into our library, it's only a matter of time before it gets worse," he said. "We must draw the line."
Catoctin District Supervisor Sally Kurtz speculated on how her representative on the library Board of Trustees would respond if given a directive not to purchase pornography.
"He would probably fall out of his chair," she said.
"I think we are meddling in areas we should not be," said Blue Ridge District Supervisor Jim Burton.
Dulles District Supervisor Stephen Snow concluded the discussion by pointing out the fruitlessness of debating what he called a "non-definitional" term.
"Asking them not to buy a non-educational DVD," he said with a little exasperation, "I don't know what that is."
HE FINISHED with a story about taking his wife and young daughter to see Michelangelo's David in Florence, a statue that, due to its nakedness, could be considered obscene.
Snow's daughter walked around and around the statue, he said, and concluded, "Isn't he beautiful?"
Dealing with "nebulous terms," Snow added, makes him "uncomfortable morally and intellectually."
Before putting the funding request to a vote, Chairman Scott York voiced his faith in the Board of Trustees to do the right thing with the money. Waters had earlier withdrawn her motion to amend the request to exclude DVDs.
The request, with the original wording intact, passed 7-2, with Delgaudio and Waters opposed.