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April 29, 2008

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Christina

This is so shocking. I thought that a library could have a policy of not allowing viewers to look at porn over the internet for the sake of those around them.

This is truly saddening. A security guard reprimanded for stopping someone from viewing porn? A woman fired for reporting a guy watching CHILD pornography? What has it come too? And how is society allowing our "freedom of speech" to be taken so far?

Andrea

I had a similar experience in 1998, I discovered a group of young boys (maybe 8 or 9 years old) watching porn on a public library computer. With no parents in sight, I notified the librarian. She told me she had no control over the situation and that the library was not responsible for "supervising" the boys. Last I checked, it's illegal for children under 10 to even view a rated R movie much less watch free porn at their public library... which was within walking distance of many families with young children. My research at the time found similar results. The ALA just does not recognize the hazards of this "free speech" on our children, both as victims of it's content and it's consequences.

Staci at Writing and Living

This is going to be one of those "why I love Missouri" posts. We frequent two libraries. I did some quick checking on their websites, and both have policies in place.

Library number 1:

[Library name] while recognizing the false security and inadequacies of Internet filters, have unanimously voted to place Internet filtering software on public access terminals in order to (1) be in compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act so that federal funding will continue to be available and (2) to offer limited protection from offensive sites. We have requested that library staff make patrons aware of the filters and believe that, for minors, parental control continues to be the best protection.

Library 2:

Inappropriate Images—Use of the library’s Internet computer to access material that is obscene, child pornography, or “harmful to minors” is expressly prohibited. Public display or printing of offensive or explicit sexual material is a violation of RS MO-573.060 and will result in suspension or revocation of library services and appropriate penalty under law.

I was curious about Library 1's policy. If there is a federal "Children's Internet Protection Act," why aren't these other libraries worried about it?

Ellen

I believe that our public libraries have two sets of computers - one set that sits between the teen and children's sections and another set that is in an alcove (the monitors face the wall so there is no problem with people walking by behind the monitor) in the adult book section. The children's computers have filters, the adult's computers do not.

It seems like such a simple solution.

Lucie

What is unfathomable to me is why, when child pornography is illegal, and a person can be arrested for having it on their home or office computer, it is not illegal to view it in a library. Why aren't library staff arrested for having it on their computers? Is it simply because said computers are "public"?

Kell Carpenter

Yes, this is very disturbing. It's also very unfortunate that some librarians and/or library staff members have chosen to interpret the clause in the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA) that allows for adults to request access to unfiltered Internet access at their libraries as a "green light" for porn surfing. What it really means is that adults who are needing to access sites that are blocked by a filter pertaining to topics that are necessary for scholarly research should be granted access to those sites.

Filters are generally not sophisticated enough to judge intention, and tend to "over-block" when there's a chance that a site is inappropriate; thus, someone doing research on breast cancer might be unable to access a site that has photos of breast cancer victims, etc. This scenario is exactly what CIPA allows in its clause for adults requesting unfiltered access, but people with an agenda or those who are terrified of litigation have taken it to mean a free ride for porn surfers.

I am a librarian in Georgia, and in our library, we don't allow porn surfing at all. If someone has managed to find a site with inappropriate content that the filter has missed -and that *does* happen; once again, because filters can't judge intent- we kick them off the machine and remove their Internet privileges. Our policy is that, while adults can choose to browse for porn, they don't have the right to do so in our public facility, which would put it in full view of others who don't want to see it.

Very disturbing, indeed, that some would sacrifice the rights of the many for the rights of the few...

Jacque

In the library I worked out for nearly five years patrons had to sign a form agreeing to comply with the library's acceptable internet use policy. It included NOT viewing sexually explicit material. I know of about 1/2 dozen people who were suspended from using the internet because of violating this agreement after viewing pornography.

The library had used privacy screens for a couple of years before deciding to remove them. They found people had a false sense of privacy and were viewing very explicit sites that could be seen if you were standing directly in line with the computer screen.

When we found children viewing porn they were also suspended from using the internet. They do have filters on the young adult computers, but children have found ways around this. Because I was not in the administration and did not attend library board meetings I do not know how they reconciled their policies with the ALA position on filters, but I am certainly glad they took the stance that they did.

From first hand experience I know that libraries are sadly not always a "family friendly" place. Christian parents must be vigilant. However, if parents are wise, the local library can be a useful and enjoyable resource for Christian families.

Dorothy

At our public libraries here in northern Alberta it is against policy to look at porn on the computers and can result in loss of library (or at least computer) privileges.

Lindsey

I am a librarian in a public school and we do, of course have filters on our computers. But I have to say many times they are more trouble than they're worth. I would really rather get rid of the filters and just monitor the students (which I do anyway) to ensure they are staying on research sites. For instance, when a student wants to research breast cancer the filter blocks that search as well as searches on STD's etc. These are just some of the examples I've experienced. Since many students do not have computers in their homes I am glad there are unfiltered computers in the public library where they can freely search. That being said, I do believe the libraries should have a policy that does not allow offensive material to be viewed in public and many of them do including the one in my town.

Susan H.

I worked as a library assistant in a public university library for several years. Like most large libraries with public internet access, we encountered this problem. While I sympathize with library patrons who don't want their children accidentally exposed to pornography in a computer lab, I also know that this problem puts librarians in a difficult position. Without the use of content-control software, it's very hard to stop people from viewing pornography. Librarians are there to help people gain access to knowledge, not to discipline adults. Sometimes the best solution is to provide privacy screens or to orient certain computers in the lab such that other users won't be able to see what's on screen.

Using content-control software obviously would cut down on the use of pornography, but it also brings up a whole new set of problems. Who decides what content will be filtered out? What if legitimate, non-pornographic sites are filtered out inadvertently as well? Some libraries have started using content-control software with the provision that it can be turned off at the request of adult users. But many internet users aren't very tech-savvy and may not even understand that the content they're accessing is being filtered.

I'm not saying that having no restrictions is necessarily the right answer for every library -- just that it's a tough issue with no obviously correct solution. Many public libraries are understandably uneasy about the idea of placing limitations on what content adults can access, other than what's dictated by law. (Child pornography, for example, is illegal, whether you're viewing it at home or at the library.)

Jenn

All member libraries of the eiNetowrk (http://www.einetwork.net/ein/libraries.html)use filters. This group includes most of the libraries in southwestern Pennsylvania, including the branches of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

The libraries seem to have adopted the policy, inspired by the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), enacted by Congress in 2000.

CIPA penalizes public libraries who do not implement filters by disqualifying them from discounts.

Larry Geiger

This is disturbing, but probably not a huge problem, since most people are self-censoring in public environments like that. It needs to be controlled but the ALA is NOT going to help you with that. Also, many librarians interpret censorship very broadly and have a hard time understanding the difference between freedom and license.

The main problem is what's actually in the books over in the children's department. That's often very scary, and like TV, just goes into many people's homes with no thought given to content at all.

James

Truly sad. I discovered that our public library did not allow literature distribution--I'm not kidding! Read about it here (http://headdibs.blogspot.com/2008/04/library-does-not-allow-literature.html) and here (http://headdibs.blogspot.com/2008/04/library-does-not-allow-literature_21.html)

GUNNY HARTMAN

Quick hits ...

1. That's such heinous and brazen behavior - to view such in the open for all to see. "Have you no shame?"

2. How does the 1st Amendment ensure that someone has to provide access to "free speech"?

Though I disagree, I can understand where they conclude that they are "free" to make smut. But, why do my tax monies have to go to provide for another to view such "speech"?

Michael Clark

Hi, Some historical information (2000 through January 2004) on CIPA (The Children's Internet Protection Act) is available at http://www.cdt.org/speech/cipa/

Jennifer

The public library near my house in Louisville, KY, has a policy against viewing any pornographic material on their computers. Everyone has to read a preliminary screen before using the computer and click "OK" if they comply.

Unfortunately, it does not appear to be enforced, because on my first trip to the young adult section (geared toward elementary school students) just a few months ago I saw a man viewing pornographic videos on YouTube on the only computer in that room. I was appalled, and especially so, because this was in a children's section of the library! I was unable to report him, however, because he left before I could talk with a librarian. The whole situation made me sick to my stomach--and to think, our tax dollars pay for people to have such a "freedom"!

Ingrid

Carolyn, Thank you so much for posting this. To answer your question, yes it is going on elsewhere. I live in Minneapolis many people are watching porn on library computers. There are filters on the computers but people seem to know how to get around them. What has been even more disturbing is the blatent pornographic material that is available to check out. This material is very explicit and is readily available for anyone to check out. Children/teens have access to these kinds of materials as well. We have been praying about how to address this issue where we live. I am interested to hear from others who are aware of this in their communities and what they have done/ are doing about it.

elizabeth

When I lived in my hometown, I used the public library computers often while I saved up to buy my own. I never saw anything untoward while I was there. But I can say that when I went back to this library when I visited my parents at Christmas, there were signs posted prohibiting the use of either Face Book or My Space on the library computers. (Presumably, those using their own laptops and simply using the library's wireless service faced no such restrictions.) I wonder then, is this library flagrantly violating the free speech laws Carolyn mentions, or do they know something we don't?

Deb

I have worked for a library in a Minneapolis suburb for almost 8 years. It absolutely is shocking and frightening to see what is happening.
It is an exhausting thing for me to continually filter the materials I check in and out and shelve, as more and more explicit material becomes part of our collection. The library is a reflection of the culture we live in and things are changing very rapidly. It truly is not the safe place we often think of in terms of libraries. When we first got the Internet in our system there were no filters and I have seen the most horrible things as our library is small and the computers are out in the open. Initially it would just be pictures and then movies and clips, things I'd never seen in my life. I would often go home in tears. They installed filters and also hired a security guard about a year ago and that has helped greatly, although there are still problems.The guard has to watch constantly to keep things in order. People are asked to leave if they continue to watch pornography and I am grateful for that. There are ways to get through the filters however and the guard cannot be everywhere at once. My heart breaks for the young people who devour this. I pray for them often. The Internet is only part of the problem though. I think most people would be absolutely shocked at some of the materials that are in our library system. The covers on the "How to Books" and the newer romance novels in particular, are often soft porn and sometimes more, not to mention extremely graphic titles, and this is just on the covers. There are definitely movies that are truly porn under the "guise" of foreign art films. Just last week I filed a formal complaint as a new book was released into our library, which I had to shelve. It's a fiction book called "Smut Vol 1" and it contains graphic nudity along with extremely explicit pornographic short stories. Another title that absolutely broke my heart is called, "Pimpology." It is a non-fiction book on how to become a sucessful pimp. These are just examples as the library is filled with this stuff, both fiction and non-fiction. I always recommend that parents never let their children browse the adult cartoon section as it is filled with cartoon porn, the Anime being the worst. The list could go on and on and I see it getting worse every year. My husband and I have many times questioned how long I can stay there, which is heart breaking as I do love working at the libary but for now, we believe the Lord has me there for a purpose. But there may soon come a time when God will ask me to leave. I ask people to pray for our public libraries.

Jenny

good heavens. why doesn't the same policy apply to libraries as does to workplaces - no porn viewing. Signs could be put up at front of the libraries that it's a condition of entry that you accept conditions in relation to internet usage, and if you want to view other things, here are a list of the internet cafes where you can pay... The click to accept screen that we all get at work is the best idea (as mentioend by a previous commenter).
Outrageous use of public resources.

John

I remember in our college library people from the public - not students - coming in a viewing pornography from our computers. It was an older man sitting in the midst of young college girls. I was outraged, but of course couldn't do anything. Now I wish I would have at least spoken up.

Tami

Interesting points about the San Jose case:

* The main branch of the library is on the campus of San Jose State University -- which has one of two Library & Information Science grad programs (the degree you need to be a Librarian) in California (the other one is at UCLA). Interesting because this forces it from being an intellectual debate over free speech (which it definitely is), to a very real issue in the community.
* There's currently a proposal to put in filters at the library (I have a feeling this came about in part because of KGO-TV's coverage). From what I can tell it's still under evaluation.

I absolutely view pornography as wrong, and that calling it "free speech" is a huge stretch. I have to say that there are always folks on the more radical end, but I would surmise that most librarians are not particularly excited to see their resources used in such a way. As employees of a public institution, they may be forced to enforce a policy which, in truth, they are personally against.

I'm pleased, however, to hear that many librarians *are* standing against this!

em

This is a major issue and we fought it legislatively for some years. The leftist ALA is, as your friend discovered, quite against any limits on what taxpayer funded public computers can be used to view. But federal law (CIPA) now states that libraries have the right to filter computers if they choose and connects this w/ receipt of federal monies (though I think courts have enjoined aspects of the law).

I would suggest that your friend start a petition to your local board of supervisors and the library board in her county asking that library computers be filtered or at least that patrons who wish to view obscene material be restricted to one computer in an area which children cannot access. Tell them that if your child is exposed to filth you will talk to an attorney about suing the library board for exposing your child to corrupting material.

Shelly Galdamez

I just recently realized this was the policy at our libary as well. Thankfully, because we live in a smaller community, the librarians are able from the back to monitor what everyone is viewing on their computer and if it is questionable, they turn them off. I hope no one decides to challenge this as I imagine they would lose. But for now, I'm thankful they are attempting to watch out for us and our children.

ariel glenn

Hi Carolyn,
This same thing happened to me at a Research One library at a major university where I live. I went and told the librarian and she made this person leave because he was not a student. I don't what would have happened if he had been a student. It is frightening to witness the rapid descent of U.S. culture. I use technology often in my work but I am alarmed at the ease with which horribly graphic, violent, sexual, and pornographic images, text, etc. can be accessed by people of any age in our nation. Sometimes I think the Internet is both great and really horrible.

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