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The Great Canadian Porn Debate

Our library neighbors to the north have been debating a subject long plaguing American libraries: porn in the library.

American librarians and the American Library Association love to defend porn and perverts in the library, claiming that since porn in “Constitutionally protected speech,” it should be accessible in public libraries.

They were never so vigorous in defending porn in libraries before the Internet made porn so ubiquitous, of course. It’s not like public libraries ever subscribed to Hustler Magazine or anything, but they’re all for defending porn in libraries when they’re not actively buying it but would have to actively do something to stop it.

That all makes librarians look like idiots to the general public. Librarians end up defending guys like this one, who allegedly viewed online porn in the library while masturbating.

He says he was researching “teen attitudes” while learning to use the Internet and accidentally found some “bad stuff.” Oh, and the hand moving vigorously in his pants was just playing with his “phone,” which for all I know is a new slang term for penis.

If he’d just kept his hands in view, the librarians would probably have defended him.

It could be worse. It could be like this library, where another guy was allegedly watching hardcore porn in full view of children on at least two occasions. The library was trying, too, since they supposedly installed filters after an incident in July, where another guy was allegedly viewing porn while masturbating and the librarians did nothing even after someone complained.

“The patron was lying back in his chair, he had his hand down his pants, and was clearly masturbating,” Berry said.

Berry complained to the librarian and expected the teen to be thrown out, but 20 minutes later, she says he was still in the library.

“He was on the exact same computer,” Berry said. “He hadn’t been kicked out of the library. He hadn’t been kicked off the computers. He was still sitting there.”

Ouch. Oh well, I’ve heard there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Maybe filters and a walkabout once in a while?

So now the debate has moved north. The Windsor Public Library has banned both porn and online gambling. Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to ban cigarettes and keg parties in the library because they’re so darned conservative.

Not like swinging London, where the decision on porn in the library has been deferred. Everyone is probably hoping to see a few more patrons masturbating before acting.

They had a debate on installing Internet porn filters. It turns out that London has its own chapter of the Regressive Librarians Guild, and a spokesperson argued against installing porn filters by saying that “filtering computers could limit access to information.” Um, yeah, that’s kind of the point, so I don’t see much of an argument there.

The article is short, but maybe she trotted out the tired argument that filters could limit information about breast cancer, but I’ve heard that’s not true as long as the patron isn’t searching for “boobie cancer.” Apparently, that’s when the problems start.

Instead, she urged putting up “privacy screens.” Oh, goodness, we know those don’t work either. The masturbatory guy who inspired the filters in the above article was using a “privacy” screen.

Maybe the Canadians will be bold enough to implement the only workable solution, which is private Internet viewing booths at all public libraries. Instead of having to filter porn or put up useless privacy screens, just put up some booths with curtains that close. That way, nobody can see what’s going on. Problem solved. Canadians always strike me as a practical people, so maybe they’ll have the good sense to do this.

Though probably not. Just as we hear tired arguments about how filtering Internet porn is a restriction of free masturbation speech, someone would probably argue that separating porn-viewing, masturbatory public library patrons from civilized people by putting them in private booths would be stigmatize them or something, like putting Playboy behind the counter, as if guys who sit in public watching porn with their hands down their pants could possibly care.

Until libraries have the courage to stand up and say, “we’re tired of defending porn,” or to put in private viewing booths, they’ll have a bad porn reputation and be subjects to remarks like the one by the writer of this article on some guy who embezzled $130,000 to support his Internet porn habit:

As Will Hunting would say, “You just paid $130,000 for a spank bank you could’ve gotten for free on the Internet or at a library.” How do ya like them apples?

I’m surprised that one didn’t show up in the AL Direct’s “Seen Online” section. Just keep chanting, “no such thing as bad publicity, no such thing as bad publicity.”

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Comments

  1. The Onion referred to this topic in its hilarious video on the death of print newspapers, Boston Globe Tailors Print Edition For Three Remaining Subscribers.

  2. Paigers says:

    Sigh…once again, availability of “porn” (whatever your definition) in the library is a different issue than public masturbation…

  3. Richard says:

    The Berkeley Public Library at one time had a collection of Playboy and Penthouse magazines in the Periodicals section. I don’t know if they had a subscription or if the magazines were donated, but many issues had pages conspicuously ripped out. So I’m told.

    I don’t see why it would be so difficult to designate an access-controlled area or computer for “mature information” … the challenge would be in granting appropriate levels of “privacy” to prevent deviant behavior … and maybe a no-hands-in-pants policy? What kind of signage would you use for that?

  4. anonymous says:

    As usual, the confusion is in the conflation of issues. The reality is that there is no filtering system, including human intervention, that effectively separates porn from legitimate intellectual inquiry. However behavior is easily and legitimately regulated. If behavior is strictly moderated, the pursuit of information that triggers certain behaviors will be self-limiting. If you catch my drift.

    In the long term, the US will eventually come to agree with European countries who have institutionalized the notion that internet is a basic human right. Give everyone broadband as a basic human right and they can exercise their right of information access to the home, where it belongs.

    In the mean time, here’s a thought. Kick off a screen-saver whenever one or the other hands leaves contact with the keyboard.

  5. spencer says:

    why can’t we just have publicly subsidized adult video parlors?

    take a few bucks per capita out of the libraries’ budgets- since they won’t be dealing with these people anymore- and just set up shop for the services these people obviously need.

  6. Melanie says:

    Uh, you all are missing the point. It is Illegal. In Wisconsin its covered under state statutes.

  7. katmae24 says:

    I absolutely LOVE the Annoyed Librarian! I could not stop myself from laughing out loud after seeing “boobie cancer” – you hit the nail on the head exactly! Every public library I’ve worked at – we’ve had to deal with this issue. Confrontation at it’s finest!

    I do know that one of the academic libraries I worked at had Playboy on microfilm. It was a hoot. Everything was reversed into negative image! Lots of white and black :)

  8. Weighing In says:

    Interesting that you mentioned London, Ontario (Canada). That the Board is deferring a decision “on porn” hardly makes them progressive or liberal. London has both filtered and unfiltered computers, and patrons can choose which they log on to, but even that is a compromise. It was only a few years ago that they were going to filter ALL computers. There was a public outcry, especially from the library school at Western University (one of the 7 MLIS programs in Canada). London is a very conservative community. LPL doesn’t exactly toe the ALA party line on intellectual freedom.

    London, in Oxford County, is also adjacent to Middlesex County, where a lot of LPL patrons live. Forget “breast cancer” as an example of what would get blocked with filters. How about the Optimist or Kiwanis Clubs of Middlesex whose websites get blocked because they have the word “sex” in them? Those poor farmers, not able to find out when the next country fair will be held, LOL.

    I haven’t worked in a public library for very long, so I have only encountered one instance of someone viewing porn on a computer. In that case, it was photo attachments in her email (yes, HER. A 60 year old her!). Granted, her hands were not in her pants, but the images were clearly visible to me from the information desk. When I went over to her to ask her to close down the website, I learned that she was in Hotmail! No filter would ever catch that, especially if the images are labelled IMG009 or something.

    I am a children’s librarian. I don’t like porn, period. I especially do not like porn in the library. I can not defend someone’s right to view porn. (I also have a bit of an issue with violence and we seem to have no issue with the online video games that people play, where a 2 year old is watching their older sibling shoot people in the face).

    But just because I can’t defend the right to view porn, doesn’t mean I can defend restrictions on other materials, either.

    All these people who have issues with porn in the library actually are objecting to porn itself. Until they are willing to take on the porn industry (yeah, right, like that’ll ever happen – it’s far too lucrative), the burden should not rest on a librarian’s shoulders.

  9. modestproposal999 says:

    Bravo! Surely, since filters never overblock,never underblock, and never interfere with anyone’s right to access constitutionally-protected speech, we should all fully embrace filters for everyone. Granted, I can’t find the actual ALA policy that references the association’s love of p*$n, but of course, I believe you without question, since you sound extremely authoritative. Furthermore, since what we read and view is exactly the same thing as what we do, nobody should be allowed to read mysteries or watch police procedurals. And finally, since we have an overpopulation problem, we should also ban romance novels and soap operas, since some unquestionably promiscuous women apparently find them exciting! These fallen females should all be condemned to spend every evening listening to speeches by the author of this article in our very own eminent Library Journal.

    Thank you for this. It is so heart-warming to see morality and intelligence in an obviously peer-reviewed publication.

  10. Great post, AL. I even added a link to it to the bottom of my own on the Windsor matter:

    “Library Board Thanked for Blocking Porn With Internet Filters”

    http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2011/10/library-board-thanked-for-blocking-porn.html