Filter Libraries


The Columbian - Vancouver,WA, Editorial Page Says a win-win solution for beleaguered Fort Vancouver Regional Library officials in their continuing battle to get a much-needed bond issue passed: Treat your electronic offerings the same way you treat your print offerings.

When books and magazines are "selected" for libraries, no one screams, "Censorship!" It's part of what librarians do. Since not every book and magazine in the world can be placed in a library, these documents must be selected and, yes, taste judgments often are made. Why not do the same thing for Internet access?


I think that's a great idea. Librarians can select only the internets that they can afford to subscribe to, and then patrons can only use those internets.The choices are easy, since there are currently only two internets, and the second one is primarily a backbone for research universities.

Only allow access to those sites that librarians have specifically "selected" for the library?

So, do you want to limit library access to 5-10 websites, or do you want to hire an army of internet-indexers to sift through the internet "selecting" websites (and going back over every "selected" website regularly to make sure it hasn't been taken over by someone else and turned into a pr0n site...)?

This idea makes no sense to me. A hand-selected whitelist of "acceptable" sites would either be trivial (here are the 10 websites available from our library!), or prohibitavely expensive to create and maintain.

What was the editorial-writer smoking when he came up with this? It has to be satire of some sort.

That's the worst idea I've heard, to let librarians select internet sites! To let librarians have control in this area defeats the purpose, and frankly it is stupid and dangerous. The whole point of internet is it is user-driven. And that is why librarians (who are control freaks!) hate the internet because they have no control over it.

Ummmm...I'm a librarian. I don't "hate" the internet.

But librarians don't like the very fact that users don't actually need librarians to use the internet. They bypass us altogether. The sad thing is that most of the time librarians don't even know they are being bypassed altogether. Users are generally tired of working through the library jargon and the confusing dewey numbers and other classification systems that they find unfriendly and unfamiliar. So our self-importance and relevance has been eroded by this fact. Librarians have to learn to live with this fact.

That commentary reads like wishful thinking.

It is difficult to draw a comparison between the internet and historically common objects. One could say that it is like an encyclopedia dedicated to containing all knowledge, art, and viewpoints, although I tend to think of it more as a library in and of itself.

If you consider it to be an encyclopedia, then filtering is like cutting out the pages containing material that offends your sensibilities. If you think of it as a library, then by analogy, surfing is a form of browsing. The difference is, instead of merely looking at the titles and the notes on the back cover, you can look inside the book for a quick sampling of its contents. The thing is, it is only by looking into the contents by which you can decide if those contents offend you are not. If the contents do offend you, then you can surf to a different page or site. In short: you have to expose yourself to that which offends you in order to avoid it. If you expect somebody else to remove every little thing you might find offensive, then you have no place surfing the internet to begin with. Aside from which: there is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere. So eventually you would end up banning everything.

I know it's really boring to introduce reality into a discussion, but it's mostly NOT librarians pushing filtering schemes on public libraries. It's mostly politicians with no interest in, understanding of, or concern for libraries who are pushing the filtering schemes, because they think it's helpful to them politically to be against "smut in the public library".

Subscribe to Comments for "Filter Libraries"