Despite porn, libraries should keep Internet open


Julie Muhlstein Says Despite porn, libraries should keep Internet open. "There's a technical answer and a philosophical answer," said Mary Kelly, the Sno-Isle Regional Library System's community relations director. "Technically, filters are getting better, but no filter is 100 percent perfect," said Kelly. Sno-Isle libraries use privacy screens and desks with hoods covering computer monitors, she said.

"Philosophically, libraries are historically places where people can go and access a variety of information," Kelly said. "You know how difficult it is for courts to determine what is pornographic, what is obscene. We have a compromise that gives parents some controls but doesn't take away the rights of adults."


Mary Kelly said, "We have a compromise that gives parents some controls but doesn't take away the rights of adults." To what rights is she referring? Is she suggesting people have a legal right to legal porn in public libraries? Legal porn is legal, but must libraries violate their own policies and their own enabling statutes to allow it? Isn't US v. ALA relevant on this issue?


What about those libraries that do no filter Internet access and do not allow patrons to view porn?


What you are suggesting is the ALA's top alternative to filtering, namely, acceptable use policies. Essentially, people agree to be respectful and follow the library's policies.

There was a Star Trek episode where the Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and Scotty switch places with their counterparts in an evil universe. The good guys were able to get around pretty well, but they worried the bad guys might get around pretty well too. However, the bad guys were easily spotted by the good guys. Remember? Evil Spock: "Where's my beard, what's going on, where's my personal guard!" The good Spock said a good guy can act bad but a bad guy can't act good. You recall that episode?

Along come Acceptable Use Policies. The good guys can act good, but the bad guys can't. Acceptable Use Policies are effective at giving the illusion of control, and the good guys (the vast majority) obey them, but the bad guys could care less about those policies and violate them on a regular basis. I have seen dozens and dozens of stories of library crimes where the librarians act surprised that someone would violate the Acceptable Use Policies. But it happens on a regular basis--Acceptable Use Policies are essentially ineffective at stopping the activity they are purportedly intended to stop.

So, back to your compromise, libraries that do not filter but that also do not allow the viewing of porn means porn is not blocked and will be accessed by those who could care less about Acceptable Use Policies. Such a compromise would not be workable.

However, such libraries are useful to illustrate that pornography, though legal, may be legally excluded from public libraries. But don't consider that my conclusion. I'm still looking for input from others on my original questions.


Dan, if you are waiting for the Devil to come visit you with horns, a fork and flames of hot fire you are going to get a horrible surprise someday. The devil walks around like a natural man.

You miss the important part of no filter / no porn: staff monitoring. We walk the floor and bounce people for looking at porn. No one cares about use policies. That's just for lawyers and politicians and anyone else who needs to have and ass covered.

Finally, Dan, you need a lawyer. The questions you asked above will not be properly answered by anyone else here. And get someone who is not the erstwhile esquire mdoneil.


We agree! As you put it, "ass covering" is what Acceptable Use Policies are for, as "No one cares about use policies." We agree!

We agree as to the need for legal information. To that end, I applied for an ALA class on the subject of library law and I was rejected after the ALA realized who I was, investigated my legal status, then finally said I was not invited. So much for equal access, right? Who cares about intellectual freedom at the Office for Intellectual Freedom, right? I might have had answers to these questions but for the ALA's discriminatory practices.


No, a LAWYER. If I need a new bathroom from studs to fixtures a half day Home Depot seminar won't get it done.

Dan, I just knew you had to be a Trekkie! Kidding aside....What about libraries that DO filter, have acceptable use policies, and still have instances of patrons viewing porn? You can claim all you want that filters are effective. I know they simply are not the be-all-end-all solution. And I won't claim they overfilter the breast cancer research sites and such.

We tested several before CIPA regulations went into effect and each one had major flaws, not all of which were discovered during our trials. Our current one at one point filtered Microsoft Word documents and interferred with our update manager. Then there are the various ways patrons find around the filters, and let's not forget the ever popular email attachments, which are not affected by filtering software.

Isn't everyone a Trekkie?

Filters will never, ever be perfect. So is that a reason not to use them? The US Supreme Court already recognized filters will never be perfect and acted accordingly. Acceptable Use Policies are essentially useless, yet the ALA says they should be used everywhere. Why the double standard?

Where filters are used, good ones like the ones even the ACLU now says are over 95% effective and no longer block health-related sites, then there is a serious reduction in the activity sought to be interdicted by the filters. Filters alone will never be perfect, but they are the best solution so far to the problem. They should be used in conjunction with other means to best achieve the desired result.

If your filters are crummy, look around for newer, better ones, and implement them properly.


Good lord, what is so terrible about porn?

What is so bad about sex, heck lets do it like bunnies.

However the library is not the appropriate place for that either.

One would be better served by reading ALA materials on IUPs directly, rather than accepting Dan's characterization of them. After the new ALA website is fixed, of course.

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