Mom Sounds Alert about Unfiltered Library Computers

When the 12 year old daughter of Rosemary Baker saw another child viewing graphic sexual content at the John Curtis Free Library (Hanover, MA), Baker decided to make an issue of it. Baker is now talking to friends and community members about trying to get the library to install filtering software on its public Internet terminals. Because the library does not receive federal funds, it is not required to install censorware. While sympathetic to Baker's distress, Library staff and trustees have no plans to install filters. They do, however, "quietly monitor internet use" and have asked at least one person to leave due to viewing inappropriate content. Baker said that she will no longer let her children go to the library unless she is with them. More here from the Patriot Ledger.

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on the shelf?

I think we should all do Interlibrary Loans of these titles to find out which libraries still have them on their shelves. Those are what we call "self-weeding" titles.

Re:The brave libraries

Brave? Is that the word we want to use? There could be reasons other than bravery for books like that ending up in a public library.(I figure that universities have different reasons to buy such stuff).

Re:Good!

"If you alienate and offend a sizable portion of your community with comments like yours, you have to understand the consequences and repercussions." Just ask the folks who work at the Fort Vancouver Regional Library who just lost a bond measure because a number of people were concerned about viewing porn in the library. They desperately needed the bond to pass so they could update their facilities.

Breast Cancer

From the article,
‘‘There is no perfect filter,'' Welsh said. ‘‘We often use as an example, if someone wanted to look up information about breast cancer (on a filtered computer) they couldn't because breast is a stop word.''
How hard would it be to make a filter that allowed a search if the word cancer was also included?
You can also tell filters that certain sites are allowed.
This library needs to set their computers so that only the users can see the screens. I should not have to blind fold my child if I don't want them to see porn at the library.

Re:Breast Cancer

I wonder whether this library has purchased or uses privacy screens. We use them (we allow users to choose from filtered or unfiltered access in adult areas) and unless you are standing directly behind the screen you can't see what they are doing. Which is great in terms of privacy for the patron but horrid for the staff trying to keep tabs on who's looking at porn or other inappropriate material.

But, IMHO, if you're not going to install filters, you need to install some sort of physical privacy device. While I'm checking my e-mail, I don't need/want to see that the guy next to me is looking up information on cancer, hot babes, etc... and I'd prefer that they didn't see my e-mails.

Good!

Baker said that she will no longer let her children go to the library unless she is with them.

Good! That's the correct response, and reason enough not to install filters ;-)

Re:Breast Cancer

I agree. Has this been proven? Will all filtering software kick out "breat cancer".

I've used Google's safe search/strict filtering and I came up with 4.4 million hits when I used the terms "breast cancer". I'm unsure as to some of the filtering software that is currently used and there is probably merit to the thought that no filtering software is perfect. Then again, are we striving for perfection? I'm also sure there is bound to be some porn in those 4.4 million pages.

I always hear this old chestnut used in the filtering debate and I have come to the conclusion that there are more people running searches for "breast cancer" rather than "breasts". Pardon the pun.

Re:Good!

Just because the woman is with her child does not help if the screens are not obscured unless you blindfold the child.

Good! That's the correct response, and reason enough not to install filters ;-)

I think it is a horrible response that kids HAVE to go to the library with their parents. I enjoyed going to the library as a child and if this porn isssue had been around it would have spoiled it for me if I had to go to the library with my parents everytime.

Re:Good!

That may be your response but you have to understand that libraries have to get their money from somewhere. If you alienate and offend a sizable portion of your community with comments like yours, you have to understand the consequences and repercussions.

Isn't there really a reasonable solution that protects children from porn and yet allows adults to view things like that? How about unrestricted adult computers and filtered kid computers?

Re:Good!

Very Good!After working as a librarian for 12 years I would never ever let any child of mine hang out in a library without some sort of supervision. It's the other library patrons I am most concerned about, not so much the computers.I saw my very first flasher in the library when I was ten, back in the 70s. If the porn issue raises awareness of the various hazards of leaving your children unsupervised, it might not be such a bad thing.At least in my library, you might as well just let your kid loose on random downtown city streets--it's probably just as safe.

Re:Breast Cancer

We use filters at the library where I work, and we have never had any problems with them. Of course, we have them set on the least restrictive settings that will still catch porn, and have completely DISABLED keyword blocking, which is the thing that everyone is complaining about with the Breast Cancer example.We do have an unfiltered computer at each branch, and we have had a lot of trouble with people looking at porn on them, usually in an obvious way, as if they are mainly excited by the thrill of getting caught.To move to another subject, I still don't understand why people have a "right" to look at porn in a public place. If a couple started getting it on in a library, they would get kicked out right away. Why? Because it is not a reasonable place to do that. Why is it a good place to look at pictures of people doing that?

Quit Fibbing Ms Welsh

>>Like most library officials who consider filters a form of censorship, Hanover Library Director Lorraine Welsh opposes restrictions on use of the Internet, for philosophical and practical reasons.

Ms. Welsh obviously holds a different view with her tangible collection. Why?

I took a look at the Hanover’s catalog. For fun I did a keyword “everything� search for “fellatio�. ( a favorite for some fellow LISNewsers). The result, ZERO hits. That’s interesting, Baker and Taylor, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble all show books about fellatio ready for purchase. Perhaps this was just an anomaly?

How about popular pornography? Surely Ms. Welsh wouldn’t censor these popular porn publications?

  • Bear – ZERO hits
  • Guys - ZERO hits
  • Hard - ZERO hits
  • Hustler - ZERO hits
  • Juggs - ZERO hits
  • Leg Action - ZERO hits
  • Libido - ZERO hits
  • Men Only - ZERO hits
  • Naughty Neighbors - ZERO hits
  • Oui - ZERO hits
  • Playboy - ZERO hits
  • Playgirl - ZERO hits
  • Plumpers - ZERO hits
  • Rainbow Sex - ZERO hits
  • Screw - ZERO hits
  • S.H.E - ZERO hits
  • Steam - ZERO hits
  • Swap - ZERO hits
  • Watersports - ZERO hits

    Yep. She did.

    Anyone care to explain why the medium matters?

    >>We often use as an example, if someone wanted to look up information about breast cancer (on a filtered computer) they couldn't because breast is a stop word.''

    I think I saw this same “breast� example circulated on an ALAWON talking points memo.

  • Re:Breast Cancer

    "To move to another subject, I still don't understand why people have a "right" to look at porn in a public place.[...]"

    You raise an excellent point. I imagine that some are looking there because they a)don't have access at home, or b)do not want to get caught looking at porn at home, or c)get off on the reactions of other people when presented with porn. I wonder whether this problem has been made worse as we've made our libraries more comfortable. We want our libraries to be places where people can visit, read a book, relax with a magazine, etc... but this can turn on us when people start feeling like it is their living room. It's catch-22, while we get a number of people in our buildings who follow the rules, we also get those who don't give a flip about the rules or being considerate of others.

    Re:Quit Fibbing Ms Welsh

    I went to Amazon.com to find a book to buy for the John Curtis Free Library to fill in their fellatio collection. I found an excellent book to add to their collection.


    http://shorl.com/hykovadytike

    Re:Good!

    OK, so maybe the sound-bite approach doesn't work in the blog-chat environment.

    When I said "good!", I meant two different sorts of things:

    1. Something like the above: public libraries are not (most unfortunately) safe spaces for children. Not even in the small cities that I've lived in for the last fifteen years, let alone the larger metropolitan centers.
    2. If this mother is serious about monitoring her child's reading material and access to other sorts of information, then such monitoring demands that she take her child to the library, rather than just sending the child alone.

    I am, of course, conflating the computer porn and the gay princes threads here, but there you go.

    Re:Quit Fibbing Ms Welsh

    On Amazon, one could buy a used copy of this title. I'm not so sure that is a wise thing to do.

    The brave libraries

    After reading Tomeboys comments I wondered who the brave libraries were that have these type of items. Well according to Worldcat here they are:

    The ultimate guide to fellatio :
    how to go down on a man and give him mind-blowing pleasure.
    Six libraries own:
    UNIV OF ILLINOIS
    COLUMBUS METROP LIBR
    CARNEGIE LIBR OF PITTSBURGH
    DELAWARE CNTY LIBR SYST
    SEATTLE PUB LIBR
    BRITISH LIBR

    The ultimate guide to cunnilingus :
    how to go down on a woman and give her exquisite pleasure
    Eight libraries own this book.
    ALLEN CNTY PUB LIBR (IN)
    ANDERSON PUB LIBR (IN)
    CLEVELAND PUB LIBR
    OHIO STATE UNIV, THE
    UNIV OF OREGON LIBR
    DELAWARE CNTY LIBR SYST
    SEATTLE PUB LIBR
    BRITISH LIBR

    The Super Brave

    The art of auto fellatio :oral sex for one Two libraries own:CALIFORNIA STATE UNIV, NORTHRIDGELIBRARY OF CONGRESS

    Only eight?

    There seems to be lots of libraries that are against filters but only eight have the "The ultimate guide to cunnilingus : how to go down on a woman and give her exquisite pleasure?"What about the second principle of the ALA code of ethics? We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources. If only eight libraries have this book, clearly libraries are censoring their print collections. That being the case why not put some filters on your computers? And if you call filters "censorware" then you better call your collection development people "censors" especially when only eight libraries in the country have the book mentioned above. If you really are against filters you should be ordering a copy of that book right now.

    Back in the days ...

    ... when I worked for a public library, almost 10 years ago, I was on a committee that studied the porn and filtering issue. I was sort of the librarian-techie: amphibious, able to breathe in both worlds. At that time, we figured out that filtering software could be divided along two axes: workstation/client-based vs. server-based, and site-blocking vs. keyword-blocking. It doesn't take long to realize that keyword-blocking software is amazingly bad, and site-blocking software is amazingly difficult (to keep up-to-date, that is). In fact, I'm surprised to read it implied in the above post that there may still be some keyword-blocking software on the market.

    As difficult as it is to keep site-blocking software up-to-date, I can't imagine using keyword-blocking software unless it implements filters more sophisticated than simply blocking pages containing certain words. Remember the concepts "precision" and "recall" from library school? Site-blocking software has high precision but somewhat low anti-recall (because of the new sites that appear constantly). Keyword-blocking software has high anti-recall but very low precision, because it blocks many legitimate sites.

    For you public library folks out there: do my two axes still describe the world of Internet filtering software correctly?

    Re:Quit Fibbing Ms Welsh

    tomeboy asks: "Anyone care to explain why the medium matters?"

    Because the magazines require paid subscriptions. It's a budget issue (censorship via budget?). Basically, all you get in those mags are so called "dirty" pictures. Okay, a few might be read for the articles--but they are single things that cost a heck of a lot to buy every year. And just how long would these stay in the library? Not long--and they probably wouldn't be returned promptly (if at all).

    As to the books--perhaps no one has asked for those books. Maybe everyone in her area already knows all they need to about fellatio.

    By contrast, the porn on the library comps is "free". Yes, I know the library has to pay for the comps/net connection, etc, but that money isn't used JUST for internet porn--it's used to allow access the internet. Porn is just an unhappy bonus.

    That's why medium matters.

    s/

    Re:Only eight?

    BINGO!

    It ain't da money

    Slash. I disagree (respectfully).

    Any thoughts if say, you and I, took our snow shoveling money and purchased subscriptions to some of these porn publications for the Hanover Library? “Ms. Welch, Slash and tomeboy would like to present you with 5 year subscriptions to Bear, Hustler, Playgirl and Watersports.� “Oh, and our mutual friend Bibliophile would like to donate this new (not used) copy of The Art of Auto Fellatio�. No way would she or 99.99% of public libraries take these. Just as they won’t take pops old Playboys as a donation. Try this at your local public library.

    It’s not money Slash. It’s about standards that seem only to apply to print material. It’s also a double standard that I don’t understand.

    I assume you have a collection development policy in your library? I have one as well. Like it or not, these are tools to preclude the purchase of material. Yes censor. My question, why doesn’t a CD policy apply to the Internet? Make sense? If patrons are utilizing “accessed� material via the Web rather than “owned� material purchased, why have a policy that only applies to a fraction of what people use? If community standards are a part of a CD policy, why doesn’t that apply to the Internet? I don’t think patrons care if a library purchased pornography, its presence is the issue. This is part of the myth of “Free and Open� access that drives me mad. Libraries have always censored. And still do though those still in denial call this a "selection" issue. Fine. Then I say filters are simply "selecting" what can be seen. The result is still the same.

    Compare what sex books are available on Barnes and Noble for example, (fellatio) and then try finding holding libraries in WorldCat. We already censor. And for good reason many times. I don’t want “Libido� in my public library any more than Ms. Welch. But Ms. Welch is disingenuous, and is misleading folks, when she speaks of her philosophical quarrels with censoring on her web workstations.

    You mentioned >> Basically, all you get in those mags are so called "dirty" pictures.

    Slash this is exactly my point! This is a personal bias that affects your collection development. You would censor this as I happen to agree with you. But dirty old men have rights too. At least on public libraries with "free" Internet.

    Let’s try being honest with our patrons. They may actually agree with us contrary to what ALA says.

    Re:It ain't da money

    Tomeboy, you bring up some very valid points. That's why I like LISnews--helps me see things from another perspective.

    "No way would she or 99.99% of public libraries take these. Just as they won’t take pops old Playboys as a donation. Try this at your local public library."

    Good point...although my public library might take the book. Whether it would get into the collection or not, I honestly don't know. I'd love to try, though! But then I have a perverse streak.

    "I assume you have a collection development policy in your library? I have one as well. Like it or not, these are tools to preclude the purchase of material. Yes censor."

    I'm at an elementary school, so you bet I do censor, all the time, under the guise of "collection development" (we don't actually have a written policy either at the school or at board level). A few years back, I wouldn't get the hardcover version of Guinness' World Book because there were several scantily clad women in it. Mostly that was self preservation--I didn't want a bunch of parents coming after me about it. Frankly, kids see the same or worse on tv everyday. And I know how my grade 4 & 5 boys would've reacted to it--all giggly and such. (I have a book on fashion thru the ages which has lift the flap clothes and shows people in their underwear--it's all artwork, not photos...but still). It's the same reason I have the "pop up" book on human reproduction in my office, not on the shelves, given that adults that see it can't help laughing. I didn't purchase the book, it was inherited from one of the closed schools.

    I understand what you are saying about the double standard in public libraries over print "porn" and online porn. In our school district, we don't have that problem--every resource is subject to censorship. Children of all ages, as well as staff, are expected to sign an AUP re: what we can access on the net. No porn, no chats, no free email services (ie Hotmail), among other things.

    To my knowledge our regional library systems do not filter, however, patrons are not supposed to access porn on the comps either. As I don't work in that system, I'm not sure how much of a problem they do have with it. I'm sure it's an issue...how much would be interesting to find out. If a library has an AUP banning porn, then why not use filters to enforce that rule? As long as folks can still do legit research.

    "Compare what sex books are available on Barnes and Noble for example, (fellatio) and then try finding holding libraries in WorldCat."

    As to this, perhaps the search term of "fellatio" limits itself. I searched for that term in our regional libraries combined catalogue as well as the capital city of our province's library catalogue. Got zilch for results. However, using the term "sex instruction" I got a few hundred hits. Now some were obviously for children--explaining their bodies, what are good and bad touches, etc. But some were definitely for adults and I'd wager they'd contain information on fellatio/cunnilingus. Being in the boonies, there is no way I can,um, check every book, but I have viewed at least one of the titles, personally, and I guarantee you -- it talked about fellatio! Among other things....

    " This is a personal bias that affects your collection development. You would censor this as I happen to agree with you. But dirty old men have rights too. At least on public libraries with "free" Internet. Let’s try being honest with our patrons"

    Actually, I don't have problems with porn as long it doesn't involve children or animals. I only used "dirty pictures" as many think of them that way. At my job, I'm very conscious of what comes into my library--I work for and with little kids--who have no need to see porn. But if I worked at the public library, you're right I prolly wouldn't spend $$ on porn mags--but I'd be more likely to buy the book on Auto-Fellatio than some would. This porn mag discussion reminds me of being in my LT course and our instructor saying how "Playboy" and "Penthouse" weren't that popular if bought on microfiche...

    s/

    Re:It ain't da money

    "My question, why doesn’t a CD policy apply to the Internet? [snip] Libraries have always censored. And still do though those still in denial call this a "selection" issue. Fine. Then I say filters are simply "selecting" what can be seen. The result is still the same."You might want to just discount this as a bunch of librarian rhetoric, but here goes...First, unlike filters, librarians are skilled people who use various criteria and knowledge to select books.There's a difference between selecting something for inclusion in a collection and naming classes or characteristics of items for exclusion. Most collection development policies I have seen do not say anything about items they WON'T select, but do give parameters for things they WILL.I'm not disagreeing with the fact that few public libraries have a section on sexuality that is as well developed as your local book store's, but there are other considerations that go into the selection of a book that internet filters do not duplicate. This is basically because filters by nature exclude material while the process of selection and acquisition includes material. Unless a library is willing to allow patrons access only to the websites that they personally have pre-selected, we need to look at this issue differently. It goes back to the whole library school debate of what kind of resource the internet is for a library. Is it like an encyclopedia set? (Once you get it you've got it all) Or is it more like individual items? (pick and choose from the best)It's not all about the money, but you've got to admit that a library with an unlimited budget and unlimited space would be more willing to select edgier, less general use material. I'm a teen librarian. How many times have I replaced "The Sex Book" or "Deal With It"? Many. It takes away from acquiring that same dollar amount in new materials, but I'll keep doing that because these are valuable resources.And as far as personal bias goes into selecting - of course we've got to acknowledge that, but take it a step farther too. How do most librarians select their materials? From review journals. When was the last time Booklist reviewed a book on fellatio techniques?-hb

    Re:It ain't da money

    >>I'm at an elementary school, so you bet I do censor, all the time, under the guise of "collection development" (we don't actually have a written policy either at the school or at board level).

    Again Slash, I don't think we are too far off from each other. Your comment above is honest. I appreciate that. Plus your concern for children and porno. Kudos to you!

    Re:It ain't da money

    >>You might want to just discount this as a bunch of librarian rhetoric, but here goes...

    Anon - No I don't. But we must be honest with our patrons. We haven't been with the filtering debate. I am concerned that unless our profession, particularly ALA, doesn't begin honest dialogue now, libraries will face an uncertain future.

    >>First, unlike filters, librarians are skilled people who use various criteria and knowledge to select books.

    I tend to agree. But just in this thread, Slash and myself, both acknowledge our personal bias against smut in collection development. We are human, unlike those web filters, with biases and baggage. We shouldn't be naive to think that many librarians do the same. Standards are nothing to be ashamed of.

    >>There's a difference between selecting something for inclusion in a collection and naming classes or characteristics of items for exclusion.

    I don't agree. The results are identical. Both involve judgement. And bias. Collection development is not a perfect science. Why is this difficult to accept?? So as a librarian I make collection development decisions partly based upon community standards. But I ignore these same standards with the Internet?

    >>Most collection development policies I have seen do not say anything about items they WON'T select, but do give parameters for things they WILL.

    This is not accurate. I speak from personal experience with both public and academic libraries. Do a google search on CD policies. I did and found the following examples in a recent post (re. Censorship vs. Selection?) in roughly 5 minutes. Remember too that many smaller libraries don't have CD policies. This certainly gives more latitude for arbitrary censoring, selecting, picking, choosing, etc..

    >>This is basically because filters by nature exclude material while the process of selection and acquisition includes material.

    Why can't it be said that filters "select" what they will allow in? Why can't it be said that librarians censor material based upon their CD policy? This is wordplay by librarians for public consumption. Spin.

    >>Unless a library is willing to allow patrons access only to the websites that they personally have pre-selected, we need to look at this issue differently.

    Well now you are getting warm. You are now applying your CD policy to the web. Filters, aside from librarians, are the only option to do this.

    >>Is it like an encyclopedia set? (Once you get it you've got it all) Or is it more like individual items? (pick and choose from the best)

    I don't agree with your analogy. 26 volumes of World Book, though big, is finite. Nothing, past or present, has come close to the Internet with respect to libraries. You are comparing apples with planets. Hence my contention that the paradigm of libraries changed with the web, from "ownership" to "access". With ownership we served as gatekeepers to our little, or not so little, fiefdoms by, as you say, looking at everything we purchased. "Access" via the web has changed this. This is why we are discussing CD policies. They are outdated if only applying to print. And if they only apply to print why have one?

    >>It's not all about the money, but you've got to admit that a library with an unlimited budget and unlimited space would be more willing to select edgier, less general use material.

    Respectully speaking, this is an excuse. Public librarians can put their CIPA money where there mouths are. One subscription to Watersports or Bear won't break the budget.

    >>How do most librarians select their materials? From review journals. When was the last time Booklist reviewed a book on fellatio techniques?

    You are making my point. You are assuming Booklist, Choice, LJ, et al don't censor/select as well. (They do. I was a reviewer with LJ) Someone/committee at LJ makes the decision as to what books will be reviewed. Furthermore, are librarians really this orchestrated with collection development? Only purchasing books/periodicals from 4 or 5 trade journals? Now this is frightening for me. As for fellation books, check out Barnes and Noble, Amazon, heck the thousands of specialized publishing houses on the web. It's there if you want it. But why limit it to something non smutty? You wouldn't, I assume, on your public terminals.

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