One Citzen's Response to Mandatory Filtering


Anonymous Patron writes "Here's a letter to the editor from a local citizen assailing the proposed Illinois mandatory filtering bill:

"If Joyce or Smith [the sponsor and a promoter of the filtering bill] wishes to censor things coming into his own home, that is their right. I respect that. But neither man was appointed or elected to be the official censor for this area.

The library is not your home. It is a public forum. The library exists as a repository for information in many forms and media. It is a public resource and is open to all. Censorship is antithetical to the basic function and purpose of a library.

I also wish that any would-be censor would have the courage to simply state that he or she does not believe in freedom of speech.

Just say that you do not trust your fellow citizens to decide for themselves what they can safely read, or see or hear. Just tell us that you have appointed yourself to be the official judge of what free Americans can do."

Interesting commentary, given all the talk by some commenters that "the people" want filtering in the library."


The guy who wrote that is one of those people who writes constantly to the paper saying the same thing over and over. Do not judge the whole community by that one guy. Further, think about the content of what he wrote. It is totally wrong in light of US v. ALA. Totally. Even things that he says in passing before making his points are totally wrong given the current state of the law.

Here's ALA's definition of a library collection.

Total accumulation of materials provided by a library for its target group. Synonymous with library holdings and library resources.(ALA Glossary of Library & Information Science, 1983)

Now their definition of collection development.

A term which encompasses a number of activities related to the development of the library collection, including the determination of the library collection, including the determination and coordination of selection policy, assessment of needs of users and potential users, collection evaluation, identification of collection needs, selection of materials, planning for resource sharing, collection maintenance, and weeding. (ALA Glossary of Library & Information Science, 1983)

According to ALA, not tomeboy, your "in and of itself" declaration is Canadian caca. Now why not leave librarians to make their own decisions Mr. Thoreau.


Now why not leave librarians to make their own decisions Mr. Thoreau.

Because librarians and people like you in general won't leave us alone to make ours.

Say, here's a question I already know you are woefully unqualified to handle: When was the ALA's definitions drafted or last brought up to date?

Say, here's a question I already know you are woefully unqualified to handle: When was the ALA's definitions drafted or last brought up to date?

1983, and it (ALA Glossary) is still being used in LIS graduate programs today.

Any thing else this unqualified librarian can do for you? Perhaps another Yoo-hoo or Twinkie?

Yes. Can you understand that that predates the internet and does not take mass electronic communications into account?

Can you understand that that predates the internet and does not take mass electronic communications into account?

This is a slippery slope tack in logical thinking Fang. And easily exposed.

Take my beloved web-based (mass electronic communications) Lexis-Nexis. Those thousands of libraries not offering access to this are, according to your logic here, just as complicit in censoring than those who choose to incorporate filters?


Do tell? Are you sure you haven't simply confused selection for censorship as you are wont to do? Personally, I don't see why a library should have to shell out to subscribe to a service it will never make use of, or shell out to prevent franchised citizens from accessing a service they wish to make use of. Of course, I can see how you can't understand that no one is blackmailing libraries into subscribing to Lexis-Nexis by threatening to withhold major proportions of their funding because they haven't already done so.

Come to think of it, I haven't heard any stories about libraries being blackmailed into subscribing to porn-for-pay sites so that everyone will be able to surf those sites "for free". Gee. That would mean that those patrons who access Triple-X sites do so at sites to which they have already paid for access. Except for the comparitively few which allow access free of charge.

In any event, I've already given you the answer to this issue: if the adult oriented material on the internet is not appropriate to the milieu of a public library then unplug the internet. If you're not going to do that then quit'chyer bitchin'. Or grow up and accept responsibility for your own hyper-sensitivities.

First, let me be the first to tell you that nothing is free, including internet access in the library. It may appear free to you the patron, but for me as the director I have fixed costs that I must appropriate for perverts to gape at their "for free" sites.

You're quick to invoke the "selection for censorship" when painted into a corner. However your paternal instinct to muck with a librarian's autonomy to "select" a tool (filter) to manage this new mass electronic communications betrays you. How so?

In point of fact, you are no better than those evangelical jackboots with bouffant hair who, like you, want to strip local control from the library. You lament ALA's antiquated glossary, demanding exception for this new mass electronic communications, yet refuse to extend this same exception to librarians to use CD tools to manage this new digital medium. And when unable to refute a contradiction in your logical thinking, (Lexis-Nexis preclusion based upon second-hand ignorance of what patrons may in fact use if provided), who take your ball and go home with the tired old "unplug it".

This issue demands subtle thinking Fang , with the kernal being local control. Let me say this again, local control. Technology that enables a librarian to better refine those accumulation of materials provided by a library for its target group (ALA Glossary), as set forth in a CD policy SHOULD NOT BE STRIPPED BY YOU, ALA, LEGISLATORS OR ANY OTHER BLOWHARD THAT KNOWS BETTER.

And therein is the difference between my position and yours.

Tomeboy, if you cannot correctly interpret the context for the phrase "for free", you are not in any position to lecture me about subtle thinking. As I've told you before, you don't actually think, you merely rearrange your prejudices. Imagine, the outright stupidity of a binary thinker telling others about subtlety.

As I've said a number of times now, filtering on computers reserved for use by adults does not constitute protection of children, it constitutes censorship. Threatening to punish institutions for not doing what you tell them to by cutting their funding is blackmail, and since the U.S. federal government does it, there is your attack on local control. Maggie Brooks is the legislator who is stripping the library boards of their control. Then too, it would be heaps a lot cheaper to merely put a few computers in a separate, closed room where adults can surf whatever they want instead of pissing away money on expensive censorware.

Once again, you are attempting to frame my position as something it is not by engaging in double-think. I have some shocking news for you: freedom is not slavery and censorship is not selection. Here's selection: get unwired if you can't stomach everything the internet might offer. If you won't get unwired, then stop pretending that blocking what others look at that you don't like does not constitute censorship.

I don't shill for the pro-Castroite ALA, Tomeboy. In point of fact, I am actively opposing their conspiracy of silence and their complicity in book-burning. You might know that if you had been done your research.

And the filtering movement was not generated by librarians. It was generated by ultra-conservative, theo-political fanatics. And if the arbitrary and summary forbidding of access to mainstream information is a part of a library's collection development policy, then that institution is not a "real" library. It is an ass-kissing lapdog to the tyrranical regime imposing the censorship.

I'll say it again: The internet in and of itself constitutes a library, the development collection policy of which is literally: anything goes.

If you don't like what material the internet makes accessible for every person to pick and choose from for themselves, unplug the internet. Here's a clue people: The left wing is not forcing you to surf the internet!

And if Fang was the libertarian he fancies himself as being, he wouldn't be shilling for ALA. The only difference, his jackboots are made by Birkenstock.

I'll say it again. Filtering is a local, collection development tool. Legislators and you folks in Chicago butt out!

I talk to people every day at the desk and the results are pretty clear. Either most people don't want filters in the library, or the ones who don't are far more vocal than those who do.

Oh, so we are judge the whole community by what the self-righteous, pompous asses who are demanding the censorship say all the time instead? The standard right-wing lies, distortions, and propaganda?

It is doubtful that the community wants internet filtering. In actual surveys on issues of censorship vs: access, returns indicated that only 33 percent of the populations polled favoured censorship.Those surveys were well before the advent of filtering technology, but the filtering movement is still being driven by a shrill and nearly hysterical minority.

You are putting words in my mouth. Further, the issue is not left wing or right wing as nearly everyone, except ALA leadership, wants to protect children from harm. And as to your claim about surveys, you are wrong. Actual surveys show the opposite of what you claim. See

Ask people if they want filters in the library. Ask them if they want filters in the children's department. Ask them if they want adults viewing online porn in the library.

The library is a public forum and like any public forum a bit of self-filtering is expected, and when it is not forthcoming, it is enforced.

Nah, you know most people DO want filters in the public libraries, nationwide, Fang. Quit fooling yourself. And they want them for the reason that drives LBOR absolutists around the bend:It's for the Children!

As a self-righteous pompous ass I have to say that I think the poll you cite is nonsense. Look at how the question is skewed.

Then again I think that about all polls.

I had a long and substantive answer to the original post, but frankly I deleted it because I got interested in reading something I was citing. I found "Internet Access in Public Libraries: A First Amendment Perspective " by Rolando Jose Santiago in Urban Lawyer Vol 32, p 259 (2000) [32 Urban Law 259]

Very interesting discussion of all the relevant cases from ALA to Loudon, and includes a good discussion of filtering (as it was in 2000). It was written by a 3L student at Gonzaga (which was a Catholic school once :> )

While he drew a different conclusion than I would have he did discuss options to keep offensive material from children. One of which I think is an optimal solution striking a balance between freedom of access - or if you want to call it 'no filters', and preventing minors from being exposed to offensive matter. A very good read.

Sometimes I know my answers are too long for LISNews. When I was originally responding to this topic I was looking for an MSWord template for a table of authorities because I had about a dozen citations. I gave up and took a nap at that point.

If there are any librarians with some free time I would like to find out where Mr. Santiago went after Gonzaga and if he wrote anything else on topic.

hmmm... closing that italics tag would have been a good idea.

. . . most people DO want filters in the public libraries, nationwide . . .

Prove it. Who did the work finding that more than 53 percent of the U.S. population wants filtering and where was it published?

(And don't give me any bullshit about how it's supposed to be fifty percent plus one vote. Spout that nonsense and all you'll prove is that you know nothing of statistical analysis.)

As I've said a number of times now, filtering on computers reserved for use by adults does not constitute protection of children, it constitutes censorship.

Fallacy. Revisit the courts "purient" exception you like to remind us of when "obscene" materials are discussed within libraries. So much for your first line in the sand.

Your problem Fang is with mixing medium with market price, yet completely ignoring the most important detail, content. Because something is considered by you as "free" and "web-based", it somehow has no business being subject for review by a librarian. Or that any technology to assist this librarian in collection development is now censorship. Yet if any adult themed print periodicals were freely donated, and summarily chucked in the trash (as they would be and have been), you deem this as a "selection" issue. And well within the purview of professional CD responsibilities of the librarian. Yes? "Print materials are different because of finite space in the library", you may say. Well so are workstations Fang, and porn barnacles directly impact my ability to serve my constituents who may wish to use my workstations to access material consistent with my CD policy and my library mission. Notice my reason as a librarian has nothing to do with "protecting children".Can we call this a "teaching moment" for you Fang?

As for Maggie Brooks, I tell her what I tell you and other outside muckers, "Butt Out"!

Lastly, your semantic distinctions re selection/censorship with this new mass electronic communications are as badly outdated as you claim the ALA Glossary to be. Pre-web collection development was proactive. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, found a home on the shelf without first being reviewed by a librarian. (And I doubt you did censorship squawking back then because you were completely ignorant of what had be dismissed as not being appropriate for your library). The internet however requires reactive selection because the material has already been "put on the shelf", without being reviewed by the librarian. Do we unplug it as you like to suggest? No. But keep in mind the artificial distinctions you make between these two still leave us with identical results carried through by the same professionals. Again,your inability to grasp the subtle issues involved with mass electronic communications, as you like to say.

For the record again Fang. You wish to strip local control from librarians wishing to use technology to refine their collections.

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