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Filtering the internet in San José libraries

Submitted by the admin on 25 October, 2007 - 19:22

Today's library link of the day came from the San Jose Mercury News and discussed an effort to filter pornography on the library computers.

The librarians are of the view that all information should be made available to the public and that filters can block legitimate web sites. My question for those librarians is how far do they want to go in providing legal but harmful material.

"We want to provide free access to information. Parents are certainly welcome to guide children's use, but it's certainly not the library's role to do that," [branch manager Pam] Crider said.

To present a parallel situation, many libraries now feature small coffee shop areas. It is legal for people over 21 to drink alcohol. Do libraries want to make alcohol available to their customers? Following Crider's logic, "We provide access to beverages. Parents are certainly welcome to guide children's drinking habits, but it's certainly not the library's role to do that."

"The library encourages all users to make appropriate use of the Internet by providing programs and assistance for responsible use," the policy states.

In the coffee shop example, the library absolves itself of responsibility for selling alcohol to minors because they provide water fountains, fruit juice and Kool-Aid®.

Among the top six most viewed stories from the past 12 hours at the Mercury News was one titled "Santa Cruz police find hundreds of child porn images, arrest man". That's terrible! Where could he get such images? Why, right down at his local neighborhood library, where they refuse to install filters.

But that is not a parallel situation, you claim. Everyone knows the danger of abusing alcohol.

These people would tend to disagree:

I took a look at that other SJ Mercury News story and found this quote from the police captain investigating the case:

"This one's unique ... just in the way that this transaction came about," [Capt. Steve] Clark said. "We see a lot of the contemporary child pornography is shared through the Internet. This one was predominantly done through the U.S. Postal Service."