Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Porn on Library Computers? Yes or No...

Is something like this the only answer?
By now, just about every public library of any consequence makes at least a few computers available to cardholders.  Most of those computers are placed in such a manner, however, that private viewing is difficult to achieve.  Most often, patrons walking past the computer area (even if the computers have "privacy shields" can easily see what is displayed on several of the computers at a time - and that includes any children who happen by.  This, of course, creates a huge problem for librarians and parents when adult patrons insist on using the computers to access pornography.

Billings television station KRTV today tells the story of one library there where "not everyone agrees those reproductive organs should be on display on the facility's computers."
"It's tough in the library profession to balance the First Amendment right," said Michael Carlson, Billings Public Library Assistant Director. "There are a lot of libraries that do not filter at all. They believe the First Amendment right. We're very cognizant of that. You try to take in account your community you serve."
Of the 89 computers of the Billings Public Library, 85 have filters.
The other four come with privacy shields both above and below, both of which do not completely censor the content to a passing patron in the vicinity at that moment.
So what's the answer, librarians?  This seems to be more than just a clash between constitutional rights and community standards.   Do we need "adult only" computer rooms? Or can we simply place adult computers in a public section of the library where children are unlikely to find themselves?  In my library, most of the computers sit right next to the DVD shelves that house both children and adult movies, so kids are all around the computers constantly.  (I don't know that porn sites can be accessed on the Harris County, Texas, library system computers, however.)

2 comments:

  1. Situations like this make me happy that I work at an academic library, where there are clear-cut university rules that must be obeyed. If a library user is reported to be viewing porn on a library computer and can't provide evidence that it's for research or course purposes, they can be asked to go elsewhere and security can be called if necessary. Thankfully, we've only had users viewing porn in the library a couple times in the past few years. I've only ever had to call security once, and that was because of a guest user (non-student/staff/faculty), for whom the rules are even clearer (we put up with more from faculty, students, and staff than from guest users). Non-traditional students with kids can bring them into the library, but they have to keep an eye on them, and it's not considered the library's responsibility to provide "kid-friendly" spaces.

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    1. Sounds like you guys have it under control. I suppose that's the difference between an academic library and a public library supported by the area's taxpayers. I don't envy the fine line that librarians are forced to walk these days.

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