Censored Internet Access at Phoenix Public Libraries

Topic: 

An Anonymous Patron sends "this from KPHO Phoenix The internet at Phoenix libraries is officially censored. Phoenix City Council unanimously voted to block all on-line pornographic material, going a step beyond CIPA which allows for patrons 17 and older to request that filters or blocking software be turned off.
Opponents say the decision goes against the U-S supreme court. Proponents of the law say hallelujah and feel like the library will be a safer place."

Comments

The question we need to ask is why the Phoenix City council felt it necessary to make a law beyond exitisng legislation? The answer in part is the tug of war between librarians who seek to effect social change through the library. Collection development reflects the community that the library serves and unlimited access to porn is hardly a reflection of any neighborhood. There seems to be a confusion regarding freedom of speech and the proliferation of porn. The Phoenix city council took a drastic step they felt was in the interests of the public. Granted it seems very draconic and un-American. It is up to the professionals who oversee the libraries and the flow of information to use good sound professional judgement. Unlimited flow of information is a new concept and needs to be evaluated by our profession and us as professionals. If people are trying to prove an agenda point then they have compromised their professional responsibility and allowed non-professionals to start making decisions. The internet usage is part of collection development as we have heard on this line. Let us not let the library become a important place for the public because of its porn attraction. Our professional needs to address the issue of free speech, the internet and its implications. We need to have an open discussion not allow situations to make rules. If that happens then legislators on all levels will make the decisions for us.

Hmm, so when is their Internet access being deactivated? (a public library in the US actually did to sastify complaints IIRC)

"The internet usage is part of collection development ... ."

What follows from this premise is: The library ought to permit access only to a pre-selected whitelist of sites, i.e. develop a collection of sites.

I don't see any free-speech problem there, but I suspect that most librarians (myself included) don't really accept Internet access as a collection development matter in their libraries, at least not to the extent that they're willing to walk the talk. Probably because we know that patrons would complain non-stop about not being able to get into the sites *they* want to view, if we limited them to a whitelist.

Brian - I agree with your thoughts re the reluctance of libraries to "walk the talk". However, exempting the Internet from collection development standards, aside from being unprecedented, is a concession librarians should be wary of making. That said, I acknowledge the difficulty in doing this though I am confident, provided enough librarians get involved, that this capability will be developed. For the sake of this discussion, my argument here is philosophical.

Our collections, regardless of the medium, have always been the product of professional selection. Our patrons expect this.

From my perspective we should be careful not to stand idly why our libraries slip gradually into the nouveau "information commons" concept.

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