We interrupt the regularly scheduled programing here on Blogography to bring you an important message: You get no points for trying.
You either do something to meet the exacting expectations and desires of every single person on earth, or you get sued. Apparently, it's the American Way, because we're an all-or-nothing kind of country.
Today Boing Boing has regurgitated a story that involves a lawsuit filed against my local library here in Washington State. For those who don't read it, Boing Boing is one of the most popular websites in existence. It's a site I read regularly, and enjoy quite a lot. But this "story" simply goes to show that any purported "news site"... no matter how popular... doesn't always know what the fuck they are talking about.
The deal is basically this...
All 28 branches of public libraries in the North Central Regional Library System provide public internet access so that those who can't afford a computer or don't have access to the internet have the same opportunities as those who do. But things are never as easy as just trying to do something helpful, there are always people who are intent on spoiling things for everybody. In this case, that means people accessing porn and other material in full-view of anybody (including children) walking by. Even worse, kids being the crafty buggers they are, will gladly surf for porn on their own without having to look over anybody's shoulder.
Of course, exposing minors to porn is illegal.
By trying to do something good, the library gets in trouble. And you get no points for trying.
So the library attempts to address the problem by contracting with a "filtering service" which attempts to block porn and other age-inapropriate sites so that the library can still provide free internet, but not get sued for doing so. The filtering service is not perfect... some sites that probably shouldn't be blocked end up getting blocked... but the library is trying their best to service as many of their patrons as they can with what they have, and you simply cannot make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time.
And have I mentioned that you get no points for trying?
No. Instead you get sued by the ACLU and bashed with snippy inane comments by internet legend Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing.
There's so much wrong with all this... namely that nobody has their facts straight... but I think I will start out with explaining something to both Boing Boing and the ACLU that they are apparently unaware of: THIS IS NOT OUR LIBRARY...
That stunning, multi-story, high-tec structure with space-age capabilities and an entire team of librarians and technical staff belongs to Seattle. No no... the libraries in rural Eastern Washington look like this...
These tiny libraries sometimes have no more than a single room and are staffed by one or two librarians who may have been working there for decades.
Now imagine this... you are a small-town librarian who has given years of faithful service to your community. Your daily tasks involve arranging books, checking out materials, and helping people the best you can to find information they are looking for. It doesn't pay a lot, but it's a job you love and trying to help people is something you feel good about.
Then one day you find out that you have to clear out a corner of your small building so that you can make room for a public internet computer. This allows you to even better serve the community you love, so you do your best to accommodate the new technology and offer internet access to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to use it. You may not have ever even turned on a computer before, but you try your best to learn how things work so you can do your job.
But you don't get any fucking points for trying... haven't you been paying attention?
Instead you get sued for "refusing to honor requests by adult patrons to temporarily disable the filter for sessions of uncensored reading and research" (among other things).
It's all a crock of shit of course... you didn't "refuse" anything... you just weren't able to comply with a request. But fuck you... the fact that your filtering service keeps me from looking at monster trucks with naked chicks painted on the hood means I'm going to SUE! SUE THE LIBRARY FOR TROUNCING ON MY RIGHTS, DAMMIT!!
Give me a fucking break.
The simple fact is that providing 100% unfiltered browsing in a library so small that you're unable to keep people from observing said browsing is impossible. It just can't happen. Otherwise some kid is eventually going to see something fucked up and some parent is going to sue for a million dollars on the grounds of child endangerment or something like that. So while the library may like to give you unfiltered access, they just can't. It's as simple as that.
The best the library can do is try to come up with a solution that helps as many people as possible without getting sued... either for providing too much access... or not enough.
And, dammit, they DO try.
The North Central Regional Library System knows there is a problem with the filtering service and has spent a year researching alternative while waiting for their filtering contract to run out. And now that the contract IS running out, they have been spending the past two months switching over all 28 branches to a new solution... it's a centrally managed system that will more easily allow a librarian to have a site unlocked for viewing. It's not 100% unfiltered because, I say again, that's simply not an option here, but it's an honest attempt to better address an unsolvable problem.
But did the ACLU bother to call the library and learn this before they filed their lawsuit and wasted tax dollars on total bullshit? No. Did Cory Doctorow bother to call the library for a response? No. Heck, even if Cory Doctorow didn't know that the filtering software was being phased out in favor of trying a different approach... did he at least call the library to see if he might help-out or suggest an alternative to filtering before bashing them with his article? Of course not! That doesn't attract readers and increase ad revenue! Far more fun (and profitable) to attack a small-town library that is just trying to service their patrons the best they can... because THAT'S WHERE THE MONEY IS!! Well, if Doctorow feels like using some of that Boing Boing cash to build us bigger libraries with secluded "adults only" rooms so they can provide unfiltered access, more power to him. But who is going to be responsible for cleaning up that room knowing what crazy shit is bound to go on in there?
How did America get this way? Nobody wants to try lending a hand or helping people to help others... they just want to sue and attack them every chance they get. BECAUSE YOU GET NO POINTS FOR TRYING!
The insane thing here is that the libraries are being portrayed as these evil entities that want nothing more than to violate taxpayers by limiting their access to freely available information. It's categorically absurd, of course... especially considering that the mission statement of the NCRL is as follows: "The Mission of the North Central Regional Library is to promote reading and lifelong learning."
You will note that nowhere... nowhere... in that statement does it say that the mission of the library is to keep adults from performing research... or reading Boing Boing... or looking at works of art that contain nudity. Seriously, why would they give a shit? But it makes for a flashy lawsuit and good drama to say otherwise, so that's what we get.
I wonder if the ACLU and Boing Boing would be happier if libraries were to rip out internet access entirely rather than to try and come up with a solution that addresses both the threats of being sued for too much access and being sued for not having enough access? What other option are these libraries going to have? It's a no-win scenario because they're going to get sued no matter what they try and do.
And you get no points for... well, you get the picture...
We're rapidly becoming a country that's going to be afraid to TRY anything... who do I sue for that?
I love comments! However, all comments are moderated, and won't appear until approved. Are you an abusive troll with nothing to contribute? Don't bother. Selling something? Don't bother. Spam linking? Don't bother.
Good one, Dave. You want we should generate a blog-blitz? I’ll sign on, just tell me what to do.
Next thing you know they’ll be telling me cigars are NOT a vegetable.
Oh, I already used that once. Sorry.
But seriously – let me know what you want. We could burn their asses.
If I ran one of those libraries I’d cut the internet service and put up a big sign telling people to thank the ACLU. Seriously.
If I were an adult patron who had enough money to sue, wouldn’t I have enough money to have my very own computer and internet service?
you’re my hero.
a librarian in florida
RW… Blog Blitz? That sounds dangerous! I worry that by going crazy here, I’m going to impede the library from trying to deal with this horrendous pile of shit that’s been unjustifiably dropped on them. I don’t want to cause problems, I just wanted to get things off my chest before my head explodes. Still, link away if you’re so inclined. 🙂
The Chad… That’s probably what I would do too. But then people who rely on the library to check their email would be fucked, and the ACLU would win (but win what, I have no idea). Fortunately, there are people far smarter, patient, and compassionate than me running the library system. I am confident they will continue to serve the public the best way they know how, and will be vindicated in the end. At least they had better be. Otherwise there is no justice.
Nancycle… Ungrateful patrons aren’t suing, they’re having the ACLU do it for them.
TL… Thanks! I hope your library is having better luck than ours. 🙂
Why not put the computer in a cubicle, with just a simple camera pointing straight down as only make sure that whoever is using the computer isnt working the jerky, and different account setups for kids and adults, with the childrens acounts setup with the filtering software. That would seem to fix all the problems.
Perhaps… if these tiny buildings had the room to install a cubicle without having to tear out a bunch of books to put it in. But you have to understand that some of these libraries have so little space that even a tiny cubicle is not a realistic option. Space is just too precious.
And, assuming you could make the space, how do you prevent kids from learning the account login for adults? They could easily overhear it… or be given the information by a perverted adult. And since they’re in an enclosed cubicle, how can a librarian monitor their activities? And should they really be required to do this as a part of their job?
And that doesn’t even address wireless internet access, which the branches also provide and have no way of policing even if they wanted to. All it takes is one kid with a laptop and they’re fucked. Again.
And how long would it be before the ACLU determines that the camera is an “invasion of privacy” and sues the library for that too? Even though it’s pointing straight down and is there solely to prevent vandalism and illegal activity, these people just don’t seem to care.
I dunno. I still think that it’s grossly unfair to require librarians to have to police the activity of their patrons in the first place. In many ways, this upsets me worse than the filtering. That’s not the job they signed up for, and the stress of knowing that even a small unintentional mistake may result in a lawsuit is almost cruel (oops! you forgot to make sure the computer was reset to login and a kid looked at porn… YOU’RE SUED!!). Not everybody is computer-tech savvy, and some people find the idea of having to deal with computers overwhelming to begin with. This is just another burden they don’t deserve.
I am totally with you here. I wish that filtering didn’t have to be there (hey, I’m sure Blogography is blocked by some of them!) but finding an alternative that makes absolutely everybody happy (including the libraries and the librarians that work there)? Uhhhh… well, it’s a more complex problem than it first appears. 🙁
Oh, and can I just add that your trying to find a solution and making the effort to suggest it is more than the ACLU ever bothered to do?
Leave it to lawyers to make it impossible for anyone to actually do or say anything without some kind of disclaimer.**
It all arose when someone figured out they could use the fallacies and limitations of language to their advantage, rather than using language and common sense combined for the common good. The only alternative is endless statutes trying to define every single thing to minute detail (impossible), followed by endless wrangling over why things were or weren’t “defined” properly for every single situation that ever transpired or ever could transpire (again impossible), combined with endless empty and deceptive language from government/corporations/whatever that don’t actually say or mean what you think they say or mean because of what you read into their carefully chosen wording (really examine this sometime and prepare to be amazed) — a form of non-communication that simultaneously enslaves the unknowing yet keeps the non-communicators completely free of recrimination. It’s actually quite beautiful and impressive if it weren’t so completely evil and purposeless.
This is where we are now.
The libraries should put a simple – but prominent (meeting the legal definition of “prominent”) – NOTICE by the door and inside the library itself, in addition to the computers and computer area. This notice applies to everyone using the computers directly or indirectly (such as little Johnny or Jane viewing them by accident), whether they have a library card or just wandered in. And all “remote access” would have this NOTICE prominently displayed as well. You could have direct computer users sign and date something that also had the NOTICE. If they didn’t NOTICE the NOTICE by now, then they’re DEAD.
The NOTICE itself would disclaim the library, staff, etc., from any and all responsibility arising from the use, misuse, access, or lack of access of the computers. This includes, but is not limited to, any results of any such use or access, any data loss or potential data loss, any identity information of the user, etc., etc., etc. USE OF THE COMPUTER IS DONE AT USER’S OWN RISK AND ANY SUCH USE OR MISUSE IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE USER. ANY USER ACCESSING “ADULT” (DEFINED) MATERIAL MAY BE FINED $10,000 AND BANNED FROM FURTHER USE OF THE LIBRARY’S COMPUTERS. ANYONE ALLOWING THEIR CHILDREN UNDER AGE 18 TO ACCESS OR VIEW “ADULT” CONTENT ON THESE COMPUTERS MAY BE FINED $2.7 MILLION AND BANISHED TO DEVIL’S ISLAND FOR 30 DAYS WITH SAID CHILDREN AND NO TELEVISION, COMPUTERS, VIDEOS, OR PLAYSTATIONS.***
That kind of thing.
I would think in *public* areas (defined by umpteen statutes already) that adult-only access would NOT be allowed under any circumstances, any more than drinking in public or a thousand other adult activities that are NOT appropriate in public. Again: COMMON SENSE.
Now with all this in mind, doesn’t the ACLU have something better to do? For crying out loud. Maybe the libraries should pool together and counter-sue them for the stress induced by filing a frivolous lawsuit. No one has a *right* to use someone else’s computer (the library’s) to access anything. Period. It’s a *privilege*.
I mean: governments already cagily define driving as a “privilege” – even though it’s a “right” to travel freely – so the idea that it could be a *right* to use *someone else’s* property to do anything is ludicrous.
Just shows that anyone can sue anyone over anything.
Welcome to the U.S. circa 2006: Home of the Free.****
** – This post and all others before or subsequently posted by this poster may or may not represent the opinion of the poster and may or may not have actually been posted by the poster.
*** – Not an actual NOTICE.
**** – This disclaimer intentionally left blank.
Hah… apparently the ACLU doesn’t have anything better to do. The illegal wiretapping and all that shit is just going to have to take a back seat to the more IMPORTANT issues, like suing local libraries because they are trying not to get sued.
True, I wasnt really thinking about the size of these places. From my own view, the aclu seems to only want protect anybody that isnt a caucasion christian adult. My rights be damned as long as nobody has to be subjected to anything that resembles god.
I’d start by suing the Republican Party. But that’s just my opinion, and I’m probably wrong.
If someone is so desperate to view a site that may contain questionable material, why would you want to do it in a library? Go get yourself a second hand computer and look at that sh*t in the privacy and depravity of your own home. Why should librarians waste valuable time determining what sites are okay and what ones aren’t? They may have made a bad choice when it came to filtering software, but I’d rather have err on the side of caution in a public place with little ones wandering about.
The ACLU is a waste of time and space. It may have started out with noble intentions, but our obsession with preserving our “rights” has turned it into something you’d find between your toes after a week of camping in the mud with the same socks on – something grotesque and deserving of being destroyed.
Wow. . . I wasn’t aware it was even possible to sue (or sue succesfully anyway) because someone isn’t giving you more free stuff. So far as I know libraries aren’t obligated to provide internet access so getting pissed off because they aren’t providing you enough freedom with their internet access is insane, and selfish among other things. That being said, our libraries here are a bit larger, but not huge. They provide both filtered and unfiltered internet access depending on your age and they have privacy screen blocker things. Of course, it’s easy enough to walk behind people and see what they’re doing anyway . . . For all I know our libraries have been sued by now and things might be different. (I don’t go to non-university related libraries much these days hehe.)
So here’s the plan: Let them sue and remove all the filters, then go to one of the libraries, “accidentally” see some porn that someone is viewing, then sue the ACLU for removing your right not to be exposed to obscene material.
Seriously though, I agree with you totally on this one. Unrestricted internet access vs the daily trampling of our civil rights by our own government? I know which one I would rather them concentrate on. Plus librarians have enough on their plate. They shouldn’t have to be the internet police as well.
What you have not mentioned, but is very important in all this, is that it is a FEDERAL LAW that libraries have to have some kind of filters on computers that are available for use by underage people. As a librarian myself, we know this sucks but it has to be done. It’s not just a question of trying to do something to protect the patrons, but fulfilling the requirements of the law. Sucks, don’t it.
The Chad… According to some, the ACLU is the last line of defense against those who would deny our civili rights, and the greatest thing since sliced bread. Personally, I don’t give a crap if the ACLU is one of the greatest organizations on the face of the earth… they are staffed by total dumbasses if they are too stupid to realize the inherent problems in providing 100% unfiltered access… PARTICULARLY IN A LIBRARY TOO SMALL TO DO SO IN A WAY THAT IT CAN BE 100% SEGREGATED FROM CHILDREN.
Mark… Who has the money to mount that kind of lawsuit? 🙂
Mooselet… If this is what the ACLU does, then I agree with you completely. If I were diagnosed with a disease that was causing my penis to fall off and had no way of accessing the internet, it would be nice to go to my library and research that… even if the websites explaining it showed giant photos of penises. I’m not debating the ACLU or Cory Doctorow on that point… there’s a world of difference between such a scenario and looking at hardcore porn. But to sue because the library can’t logistically do so is absurd to the point of lunacy. Maybe the librarian can print out the information for me so that some little girl looking for a book about kittens won’t accidentally be traumatized by the image of a diseased penis…I don’t know… but to sue and risk having the internet removed completely?? How the fuck is THAT going to help anybody?
Shanon… I just think it’s very cool that libraries at least TRY to provide the access in the first place. Some people just want to be able to access email and will be grateful for whatever internet they can get… who is fighting for the rights of these people? As I said, it’s absurd to think that libraries are dying to deny people access to research materials… why would they? It’s not simply a matter of turning off the filter any time an adult wants to use the internet… it’s a LOT more complicated than that, and shame on the ACLU for being so fucking stupid as to sue because they don’t understand this.
Frances… And yet people donate money to the ACLU so they can come up with this crap. A lawsuit because the library can’t logistically un-filter their internet access? I am still trying to figure out how somebody’s civil liberties are being destroyed here.
Chris… The ACLU acknowledges this… they know it’s against Federal Law to not filter internet computers available to kids. Their problem is that the filtering can’t be removed at the request of an adult. Which is not a bad concept… in theory. But actually providing this service to adults is not always possible, whether they accept that or not. Yet they file a frickin’ lawsuit as opposed to… I dunno… working WITH the library to come up with a solution? Everything doesn’t have to be a fight… yet that seems to be all they know. 🙁
the thing i don’t get is what kind of people actually WANT to view porn at a library where other people can see them looking at it? and then. . .uh. . . what do they do when they get aroused? ok wait. i don’t want to think about the public restrooms.
up with librarians! up with trying!
I agree with Kaphar … with one exception. This notice should not only be published in English but in foreign languages as well AND should be printed on the back of library membership cards AND everyone should sign a statement that absolves the library of any “wrong-doing.” And parents sign for their kids.
We have to sign our live away for everything else, why not the library. No law suit can be filed if you sign away previously established rights to sue. And there would be no arbitration because the library is protected from monitoring online activities.
Make sense to me.
All the problem is in the moral sens of each individual. The moral sens is based on an emotional and instinctive evaluation our acts and those of others. The human being is animated by the need for ensuring the protection and the cohesion of the group. According to Darwin, with the passing of the evolution, the brain would have acquired specificities explaining our capacity to appreciate the consequences of our acts and those of the others. This part of the brain responsible for our moral sens is the “complexe amyldanien”. Then is the current society brought to make disappear our “complexe amydalien”? There is the question. Are you the only survivor on this ground to have a “complexe amydalien” in perfect operating condition? I hope you are not the only one !!!
I often wonder if the ACLU represents freedom of speech or it’s own public interests in regards to fund raising, if you know what I mean.
Our library looks just like the public libraries you picture here. A lawsuit would financially criple our small town and close our library.
That makes sense…take away free books from young kids so that they become illiterate because ultimately that’s what happens in the end, right?
I just have to interrupt the regular commenting to say Laurence is so smart and I love her.
Okay, carry on.
(I actually have no brilliant thoughts to contribute to this discussion because when I think about these things too much I get angry and begin to lose faith in humanity, and that’s no good for anybody, especially on a Saturday)
OK. Families with computers and internet access in their own homes are CONSTANTLY advised against allowing their children unsupervised internet use. Tips like “Keep the computer in a central area of the house,” and “track minors’ sites visited and chat logs,” etc. abound. So my question is, what’s wrong with applying that same policy to the public library–a system in which parents are responsible for THEIR OWN CHILDREN?
Maybe make it so that minors can only use the internet with parental permission. Give the parents the option of totally signing off on unlimited internet access. Bingo, no filters, and the onus is on the parents to either be there and supervise, or give up the right to complain.
There is already software that tracks and records every site visit, even every keystroke of a computer user, so how hard would it be to create a system in which the minor user “checks in” to a computer, and upon “checking out,” produces a record of exactly what sites he/she accessed while using the public computer? At certain intervals, a record could be sent to the responsible parent, or provided via the library’s records upon request.
I dunno, maybe those are stupid ideas (what I know about computers is stunningly little), but you get my drift. This is just another example of individuals shucking their own personal responsibility for something (like, oh…their KIDS), expecting the government to take over, and then complaining about the way it’s done.
Look to the business in your own backyard, that’s all I’m saying. I mean, would you knowingly allow your child to check out pornography, ultra-violent or hate literature from the “old-fashioned” BOOK section of the library? Would you knowingly allow them to check out white supremacist music? Ultra-violent, crime-glorifying, misogynistic video games? X-rated films?
Sheesh. This just flew all over me. I hope you commented on the original BB post.
While Internet access is nice, it’s not a right, and those who cannot afford it should be happy they can get any access at all via their local library. I am sick to death of this sue happy society we live in. It really disgusts me how some people think they are entitled to everything.
This has been bugging my ass on and off throughout the day.
I’m gonna ask what they do here locally.
You know what? I majored in library science in college. Nothing gets me more fired up than for some asshat to come in and try to ruin everything for everyone else. I think the perverted pedophile (because seriously, why else would you sue because you can’t look at dirty crap in front of kids?) who filed the lawsuit should go the hell home to read his filth.
“OMG, my library doesn’t carry Hustler! I’m totally going to SUE THEM because they aren’t providing me with adequate materials.” Yeah, nice. Sue the library who has like…a negative budget each year. What a jerk. I hope he goes blind from masturbation.
You’ve done a good job of shifting the balance of this one to pornography–which is the ONLY thing the federal government required libraries to block.
I would personally challenge any of you to log on to one of the public computers at any NCRL branch and experience their brand of blocking firsthand.
Nevermind that they are violating a clear Supreme Court mandate in US v ALA, and let’s forget for a second that the e-rate funding NCRL receives is continget on several requirements INCLUDING having in place “a mechanicsm whereby the filter can be disabled for adult patrons upon request.” (FCC 03-188a)
Let’s also forget for a second that in many of the small, rural communities it serves NCRL represents the only public Internet access available.
It still boils down to this: what gives them the right to afford no more access to adults than to adolescents?
Pornography will never be allowed in public computer terminals–yet always accessible on said terminls by any teenager smart enough to set up a proxy server.
This is about getting access to medical information, drink mixes, community networking sites, doing vital research on any number of topics, and the myriad of things which happen to fall under the 26 categories NCRL decided we have no right to see.
For my money I’d rather have no library at all than one which elects to treat all its patrons like children. Period.
I most certainly did NOT shift this to pornography. If you actually took the time to read my entry, you’ll see that I fully recognize that there are valid non-pornographic reasons to use the internet that adults should have access to.
What I HAVE said, many many times now, is that there are those who will abuse the system and look at porn. And since these computers are in a public place where anybody can see everything you do… kids will eventually see it, and the library will get sued… but for an entirely different reason.
If you honestly think that the library thinks that you “don’t have a right to see” something… you’re deluded (why would they care if you wanted to look up a drink mix?). They just don’t have a way of offering unfiltered access in a way that it would be isolated from minors. They’re just doing the best they can to come up with a compromise… and that’s not treating patrons like children, it’s treating patrons as if children are present… which is a very big difference.
The fact that you would rather have no library at all if it can’t be exactly how YOU want it is just selfish. You don’t speak for everybody, yet you want to make a decision that affects everybody.
Have you ever used a public terminal at any of NCRL’s 28 branches?
Marney and his crew have taken it upon themselves to set up a myriad of blocked categories not remotely related to pornography.
Try to look up a new pocketknive–blocked under “weapons.” Go to http://www.webtender.com to find the ultimate marini recipie–blocked under “alcohol.” Joe Cartoon? nope! “tasteless/gross” (same with the Darwin Awards–which as you know has no visual depictions of anything–it’s all text)
There are 26 blocked categories to date.
That patrons elect to log on as “children” “adult” “large print” or “spanish” is indicative that NCRL most certainly CAN accomodate adult patrons and chooses not to.
(BTW, why no comment on the Supreme Court and FCC mandates which clearly state that any library receiving e-rate funds must unblock filters for adult patrons? We’re talking case law and FCC regulations here–not to mention policy in every other library in the country insofar as the ACLU is aware?)
It hardly seems selfish to demand equal access–let alone to demand our local institutions follow federal mandates as opposed to dictating puritanical policy on everyone.
Do yourself a favor: go to any terminal in any of NCRL’s 28 branches in Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan, or Ferry counties. Surf the web as usual, experience what’s blocked firsthand.
The ACLU is doing the citizens of this region a favor by enforcing our constitutionally guaranteed liberties, and as a 41 year old caucasion (and Catholic) male, I’m grateful they’re willing to step in and make things right for everyone here.
A handful of cheap privacy screens is a small price to pay–one Marney and his crew should’ve paid well before they decided to remodel the old Coca-Cola bottling plant and pay in cash. In putting their new HQ ahead of the civil rights of their patronage there is no question in my mine who the selfish ones are in this fight.
Since you seem obsessed in thinking that Marney is personally scheming to keep you from looking up things on the internet, refuse to believe that any other factors are involved, don’t believe that the library is working on trying to solve these problems, and seem to think that everything could be fixed with a privacy screen… there’s little point in debating you on this.
All I can say is that you are misinformed on several points, and using baseless speculation and conjecture to support your argument. Have you checked to see if your local branch has been updated to the new system they are trying? Or do you categorically refuse to believe that the library is trying anything at all? Does the new system help you out with what you’re trying to research? And if it doesn’t, have you let them know where it fails? Are you even interested in trying to help them fix this, or is jeering from the sidelines all you’ve got?
I just find it horrifying that it’s an “all or nothing” game to so many people. The library installs filtering and they get sued for restricting free speech. They don’t install filtering and they get sued by conservative groups for obscenity. Nobody is interested in trying to find middle ground and, when the library tries, they get lambasted and STILL get sued.
As long as a public computer is used by both children and adults, the problem of filtering access to the internet is going to be complicated. If the library were able to designate certain computers as “adult access only” AND put them in an area where kids couldn’t see AND had the resources to monitor them… then that would be a workable solution. I’m sure that this has been suggested… but, given the size of some of the smaller branches, they are wanting to make what few computers they have available to EVERYBODY, so some other solution has to happen.
And damn them for trying to find it. Let’s sue!
Excellent points throughout Dave. I want to like the ACLU and respect a lot of what they do because so much of it pisses off conservatives, but often I find they go way too far with their lawsuits. This is one such case and it is totally ludicrous. And like you say, the library is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Put the filters on, the ACLU sues, turn them off and the Church sues (or maybe even the ACLU for something else), rip the computers out and everybody sues. Ugh. What a mess we have created.
What people don’t seem to understand is that, in complying with FCC 03-188 to allow adults unrestricted access to the internet, libraries are STILL required to comply with the laws restricting access of adult material to minors.
In a big library, it’s not a big deal… they just have a section for kids and a section for adults.
But when you have a small library with limited computer terminals… you have to do your best to find a solution that will allow the most access to adults while protecting kids from stuff that would get you sued, because the computers have to be usable by everybody.
Yet the ACLU seems to think every library is like the Seattle Public Library with oodles of square feet to devote to terminals that have unfiltered access exclusively for adult use. The contradictory nature of the law as it has to be addressed by smaller libraries is not accounted for.
So yeah, what a mess.
Sometimes you just gotta wonder if it’s worth trying anything any more.
Man, I hate feeling apathetic.
Oh heck yes… I hate that too, and feel the same way.
But that doesn’t diminish my admiration for people who are still willing to try hard to come up with solutions to impossible situations! 🙂
You know, all the arguments that went back and forth in this thread were exactly why I didn’t feel I had any deep thoughts to contribute in the first place.
Yes, I support free speech, but I also understand your argument, Dave, and I don’t think it’s very nice of the ACLU to sue a poor little public library for doing the best it can.
And just personally, I get frustated when I do a search for something online and half of what turns up is porn. I’m not anti-porn, I just don’t always want it turning up in my day to day life. I don’t want it in my cache when I was just doing an image search for “famke janssen’s hair”.
The point I think I am trying to make is that humans have a way of turning everything into such a convoluted mess that there’s no easy way to do the right thing, and that’s very frustrating. Hardly anyone seems capable of taking care of his/herself or child, and it’s just gotten to the point of absurdity.
This post and the subsequent discussion via comments has been very interesting. It makes me sad that precious resources (library budgets are not typically fat and juicy) will likely be spent on legal fees for this case. As a parent I’m all for filtering software, but as a librarian I know that our mission is to provide access to information, and filters aren’t perfect. It’s a tough situation and one that libraries have been trying to resolve for a while now. Basically, not everyone is going be happy no matter what the library decides to do. This sucks, but I’m sure there are good people working to find a solution. I just hope that they are able to work it out without going broke or removing Internet access from libraries altogether!