Cataloging Pornography


Bibliofuture writes "In the January 2004 issue of "The Journal of Academic Librarianship" there is an article titled, "Selection and Cataloging of Adult Pornography Web Sites for Academic Libraries" If you have a subscription to ScienceDirect you can read the complete article here."


"Pornography has become part of mainstream culture. As such, it has become a subject of academic research, and this, in turn, has implications for university libraries. Focusing on adult Internet pornography, this study suggests that academic libraries should provide access to adult pornographic Web sites by including them in their online catalogs."

As if funding wasn't tough enough. And how about those law suits for harassment the libraries will get from "forcing" staff to do this work. When I chose to do research on private libraries, I was on my own. It was not considered "academic" enough for funding. I managed. Got published and promoted. Porn afficionados can do the same. It's not like they need a quality filter of a live librarian.

Genealogy is also mainstream and is next to pornography in internet popularity, and I'm willing to bet academic libraries aren't rushing out to build their genealogy collections.

What I mean by validation is that providing internet access in a library is just an access point. However, when items are cataloged it goes beyond access: we are stating that these materials have passed our evaluation standards to become part of our collections (i.e. validated). Tell me how many libraries have "Hustler" in their stacks? Would we catalog a collection of print outs from pornograpy web sites? I don't think so. I believe the motivation to catalog the online equivalent comes from a political standpoint more than any desire to add to the collective knowledge. Hardcore pornography has no artistic, literary or intellectual qualities and adds nothing to our collective knowledge, and as such, is not worthy of being added to our collections.If you have any involvement with the American Library Association, you will know that the word filter is basically a dirty word to their leadership and the majority of their membership. And to my knowledge, most state library associations follow ALA's lead in this matter. Whether implicitly or explicitly, librarians who have contrary ideas are made to feel ingnorant or as outsiders. Public libraries are beginning to feel the heat from their users on their refusal to install filters, it is only a matter of time before other types of libraries also do. Ivory towers eventually crumble.

What do you want to know? And why would it matter? I posted a story about an article in a major library publication and I made no comments.

Please write more about the person who is bibliofuture.....Ã?

As someone who used to work at Lycos and looked at the most popular search terms, let me say that sexual content was way, way, way ahead of anything else. Of course, that's at a general-purpose search engine. Once a user finds some good genealogical resources, they're liable to search there.I don't have any specific articles, but I believe the factoid about genealogy being second to porn refers to users PAYING for content. Genealogy sites (notably have been very successful at this rare feat.

Please do share where one can find these articles.

Are libraries for "validating" published work or are they around for something else? What exactly is this validation and who decides what is valid material for study? Why isn't popularity sufficient for study?As to speaking out about your objections to this matter, please describe how are you "discouraged from speaking out against stands taken by the national and state associations"? I don't think people commonly know what you're referring to here.

I have read several articles that have talked about the most popular searches on the web. Several said that next to sex, genealogy was one of the top searches.

Genealogy is also mainstream and is next to pornography in internet popularity, and I'm willing to bet academic libraries aren't rushing out to build their genealogy collections.

(Emphasis mine.) Where can we find a source on genealogy being next to pornography in internet popularity?

Yes they do: Reference #60 - Sanford Berman. In: The Joy of Cataloging: Essays, Letters, Reviews and Other Explosions, Oryx Press, Phoenix, AZ (1981), p. 37.

I haven't read the article yet, but I'm curious. Do they cite Berman's seminal (excuse the pun) paper on indexing pornography from the '70s? It was reprinted in his Joy of Cataloging.(Which also indicates that this is not a new idea, btw.)

I am personally bothered that there is even discussion about cataloging this type of material and furthermore, I was disturbed by some of the language used in the article. Why should librians validate pornography by providing further access points to it? The World Wide Web can handle that by itself.

Part of my reason for not joining ALA is that most of its membership would probably claim such research as being open to "diversity" and not supporting it as being close minded.

It is frustrating that because of our defensive reaction about incidents such as the recent occurance at the Council Bluffs Public Library and the talk of cataloging pornography, that many of the American public probably view librarians as having no opinion on or worse, support pornography.

It is also frustrating that those of us with more conservative views on these subjects are from my viewpoint, discouraged from speaking out against stands taken by the national and state associations. I really feel like writing a letter to the journal editors about this article. However, I know that to do so would possibly jeopardize my standing in my profession and possibly, my employment.

I did send e-mails to the two authors and to the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Academic Librarianship. Text below is a combination of the two e-mails I sent.

"Libraries, for the most part, do not collect pornography in book or other paper copy format. Why then should they catalog pornography sites on the web? They can be found all too easily by those who want to find them -- and all too often by those who do not want to find them. Catalogs are designed to facilitate access to information. Is this really the type of information you want to make any easier to find than it is already? And to cloak it with a veneer of pseudoacademic respectability?

Let me ask if you would also propose cataloging racist web sites and adding them to library opacs, for example:
Or how about a site which insists all homosexuals will go to hell and which advocates violence against them?
Why not catalog web sites which blame the ills of the world on Jews?

I see the disclaimer statement in your article on page 37 which states "We wish to make clear at the outset that this article does not advocate the inclusion of child pornography Web sites in library catalogs; indeed, this article has no application whatsoever to child pornography." While this disclaimer is appreciated it is puzzling to me. If you advocate inclusion of adult pornography sites in academic library catalogs because this is a topic of serious research, couldn't you make the same argument for child pornography? Why the distinction, unless it is on moral grounds? And what happens if 5, 10, or 20 years from now child pornography becomes acceptable in mainstream popular culture? What is the source of your value system? Why not accept the arguments of the NAMBLA crowd?

Your article shows a disturbing disconnect when it comes to moral or ethical values. You just dismiss pornography as just one aspect of "popular culture". Is there no longer any such thing as evil? No, evil exists and it is real. Covering it up in pseudoacademic garb doesn't change what it is.

I think there are some who have an adolescent fascination with this kind of thing and who may still be acting out adolescent rebellion in order to shock people. Well, there will come a point, if it hasn't already come, where nothing is shocking anymore.

It is one thing to have a book which studies this kind of thing; quite another to actually facilitate access to the "primary" source material which underlies it.

Looking at this from another perspective, does cataloging of these sites represent the best use of scarce human resources in many academic libraries today, and do these sites truly support academic curricula? I'm sure you can always find a course here or there which may deal include discussion of pornography as part of the curriculum; on such grounds, a library can collect material on just about any topic which exists. If a library has limited staff in Technical Services and it's a choice between cataloging a site which, as Bill Katz is quoted in your article ""seeks primarily, even exclusively, to bring about sexual stimulation." and a timely science encyclopedia -- which one should receive priority? In fact, is it worth any staff time whatsoever to include pornographic sites as defined by Katz? "

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