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The Poster Boy for Library Porn

Now this is more like it. A librarian in Massachusetts wants to implement a policy to ban porn in her library rather than defend it as constitutionally protected speech.

The proposed policy would ban Internet porn and possibly ban Internet porn watchers from the library.

The policy has a good chance of being accepted, because this librarian has the best poster boy for Internet perverts I’ve seen in a long time. Take a look at the guy pictured in that article. He was arrested for viewing Internet porn at the library.

According to the police, he was using library computers to “Internet photographs of children and pornographic images of adults.” To which I can only say, yuck.

If the library had been stacked full of reference librarians attuned to standard ALA policy, the poor guy wouldn’t have had to make do with clothed children. A good reference librarian should have been able to find that guy some kiddie porn.

I mean, how hard it be to find kiddie porn? To be honest, I don’t know. I thought about searching it in Google, but I was worried they’d track my search and turn it over to the FBI or something.

But back to the poster boy for library porn.

Librarians who defend Internet porn in the library use some very high minded rhetoric. The individual freedom of us all is under threat if some guy is prevented from viewing Internet porn in the library. I always expect a reference to the Nazis, with some librarian intoning, “Remember, first they came for the public perverts!”

The antidote to that is just to hold up a picture of that guy. Or maybe this guy. Or this guy.

It would be like the cigarette warning pictures some want on cigarette packs. “You don’t want filters? Then you get this guy!”

There might still be diehards, though, who will require a different approach. We could keep the poster boy, but create a new poster, one with a more positive message. Instead of a warning, it could be modeled after the ALA READ posters.

Instead of READ, the posters could say MASTURBATE. Maybe even: MASTURBATE @ Your Library! That ought to make it harder for librarians to defend Internet porn in their libraries.

Or librarians could be sensible without having to feel like they’re betraying the profession. Ban the porn, ban the perverts. Skip the posters.

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Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    I still want to know if the libraries that are defending to the death their patron’s inalienable rights to Internet porn are willing to stock their shelves with smut magazines or the latest XXX titles on DVD.

    What’s that? They aren’t? There’s a clear double standard that’s causing these librarians to make the whole profession look ridiculous with their quixotic defense of library porn?

    What a shame.

  2. Ben says:

    Either you’re with the ALA or you’re with Vic Toews?

    Give me a break. Nobody is saying child pornography is a great thing. People are saying that censorship causes a corollary of problems because it doesn’t censor just the bad stuff. It censors a lot of the grey stuff, and a lot of the good stuff too. It also puts the librarian in a position to say what is legitimate research and what is not–again not just judging whether something is pornography or not, but judging what the intention is of the person accessing it.

    Furthermore, Internet porn on library computers and over library connections is a moot point in a world of smartphones and 3G networks. Why should the library track only those people using the library’s connections, and not the person using his or her phone to look at porn and, heaven forbid, consuming the library’s valuable seating resources while doing so? What about people who use their laptops in the library? Sure, they might not browse illicit websites, but that doesn’t mean the contents of their computers aren’t chock full of things that would make even the most hardcore advocate for free speech eject them from a library.

    What you seem to be saying is that child pornography is distasteful, but you can’t abide the consumption of child pornography, or any pornography for that matter, by those who can’t at least afford their own computers or smart phones.

    I don’t really know why you are so adamant about filtering library Internet connections. Surely, there are more worthwhile targets than the ALA’s policy on Internet censorship?

    • Andrew says:

      “What you seem to be saying is that child pornography is distasteful, but you can’t abide the consumption of child pornography, or any pornography for that matter, by those who can’t at least afford their own computers or smart phones.”

      You seem to be conflating two completely separate notions here. Child pornography is illegal. Viewing it is a crime. Libraries should immediately report anyone they see viewing that material to the police, and rightly so. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any librarian who would argue that their support for intellectual freedom extends to being an accessory to a serious crime.

    • Ben says:

      Sorry, I forgot to add my irony and understatement markup.

      To clarify the aim of my attempt at a possibly failed rhetorical device: the understatement is designed to make it seem like the Annoyed Librarian thinks of child pornography as a mild problem when it is in fact a serious one, which she indeed has argued in her post. I was attempting to make the point that Internet filtering in the library is designed only to catch people within the library confines who aren’t using their private devices on their own networks, and perhaps can’t afford such devices. It doesn’t prevent people from accessing pornography from within the library.

  3. librarian says:

    Child pornography is not just distasteful, it’s illegal.

    • Steve says:

      AL implies that ALA supports child pornography. This is a wildly inaccurate statement. Another writer says that libraries should be able to set their own Internet rules. Umm . . . they do. ALA may offer guidelines but all libraries are free to implement their own.

    • @Steve:

      “A librarian is not a legal process. There is not librarian in the country—unless she or he is a lawyer—who is in the position to determine what he or she is looking at is indeed child pornography.”

      Source: “Libraries vs. Police in a Suit Sparked by Porn; Kent Case Centers on People’s Rights and Protections,” by Jeffrey M. Barker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 13 August 2002.

      Regarding, “ALA may offer guidelines but all libraries are free to implement their own,” that is deceptively false. Ernest Istook, the author of CIPA, has just written an enlightening article on how the ALA forces its way on local communities, endangering children. See: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/27/4294010/libraries-need-not-expose-kids.html

  4. Ben, that’s about the dumbest argument I’ve read in a while. If he was using his smartphone on a 3G network, he’s be hosting his own private porn session and not using library resources, would he? He also wouldn’t be putting those images on display for every library patron in his vicinity.

    I’m all for free speech, but I absolutely agree with AL. Libraries should have the right to govern what their own computers are used for. Not to mention the fact that if I’m ever walking through the library with my kids and pass a computer screen with child (or any other) porn splashed all over it, I’m going to raise holy hell. Free speech doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want in public places. He can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded public theater… nor should he be allowed to put illegal images on display in a crowded public library.

    • Ben says:

      Please explain to me how my reasoning is dumb.

      Is a small display OK? Is a personal computer OK? Child pornography is OK in the library as long as you don’t see it?

      What I am talking about is access not display, and there is a difference. If someone is displaying pornography in a library, surely there are existing obscenity laws under which he or she can be charged. But if he or she is merely accessing some material, which isn’t otherwise illegal, what is the problem?

      What I don’t get about Annoyed Librarian’s argument is why there should be one rule for private tablet computers, laptops and smart phones that use 3G, and another rule for people who use an Internet connection. Sure, the library doesn’t pay for 3G, but isn’t the question about having access to pornography in the library at all? If I am in a public space accessing a private network, is that somehow different than if I am in a public space using public resources? Is it a free-for-all for 3G users? You seem to be saying that it is.

      Futhermore, what we’re arguing about here is not the ability of libraries to kick people out or report them to the police. What we’re arguing is about the ability for libraries to pre-emptively decide what is appropriate web browsing behaviour.

      Please understand that I am not calling your argument dumb. I understand that the issue is one that obviously touches a nerve. But I would appreciate a degree of respect in your response, as I don’t really understand how my argument is dumb.

    • Andrew says:

      Ben – I’ve reread AL’s post a couple of times to try and find the spot where she mentioned people accessing questionable material via a cell phone or tablet, but it’s not there. You brought that up. Not AL.

      The only part of AL’s post that could come close to addressing people publicly displaying questionable materials on their own property are these two paragraphs:

      “The proposed policy would ban Internet porn and possibly ban Internet porn watchers from the library.”

      “Or librarians could be sensible without having to feel like they’re betraying the profession. Ban the porn, ban the perverts.”

      Banning all watches seems like it would cover people viewing that sort of thing in a public space on their private property. I know I’d kick them out of my library whether they were on a library computer or a smartphone. I’m more concerned with the action than the method of delivery.

    • Ben says:

      Andrew- You are correct. Annoyed Librarian did not make that point. I did. You seem to think there is an inconsistency there. However, these issues relate to filtering Public Internet access, because it creates two-tiered access to different user groups in the library.

      So, how does filtering extend to smartphones or peoples’ private property? It doesn’t.

      Can people use their smartphones, tablets, etc. from within the library’s confines to access pornography outside of the library’s network? Yes.

      Should lower income people be subjected to potentially second-class access within the library because they cannot afford devices or phone plans with Internet access? That’s the point I am trying to make.

      The assumption I am making is that it would be difficult to track private watchers in the library, since you aren’t filtering or monitoring their web use. It’s not feasible with the average library’s budget.

      A further question: is privately accessing content that would be objectionable in public over a library’s Internet connection when no one else is disturbed, and no laws are being broken, any reason to kick someone out of the library?

  5. AL-
    You’re absolutely right. Defenders of ALA’s stance on porn should consider this. As a librarian you’re implicitly being trusted to spend someone else’s (i.e. the tax payer) money. If you can’t be trusted to stop porn in the library, how can you be trusted to spend someone else’s money.

  6. me says:

    I agree with AL in this case but I’m wondering who all these pro-porn librarians are. I’ve heard about them but I’ve never met one in real life. I think too much attention is given to a minority of the profession (who happen to have the “support” of ALA). I know that no librarian thinks child pornography is okay and I’d wager than 95% of librarians think any kind of porn in the library is wrong.

    • Tom says:

      Our small library has a very simple policy- grandma is watching. Since most of the staff consists of grandmothers, our unfiltered internet access is only blocked by the threat of a brutal tongue-lashing by an irate old lady. It’s incredibly effective, especially since in our small town our cadre of grandmas probably also knows YOUR grandma and they like to chat.

      On the other hand, woe betide anyone who comes in and looks at a dating website. Laverne will immediately give them a laundry list of her eligible grandsons and granddaughters along with phone numbers.

    • The Librarian With No Name says:

      Tom, that’s amazing. It makes me wish that our library crew wasn’t comparatively fresh-faced. Maybe we need to hire a few grandmas from the local Czech community to work the public computer beat.

      It also makes me miss the old network console from my GovDocs job. The ability to flash text onto the monitor of any public computer was a joy and a pleasure when it came to porn-surfers.

  7. I’m so glad the AL has continued beating the drum on this for it spotlights the appalling lack of leadership in the library ecosystem.

    Common Sense Missing
    For an institution whose key users are seniors, women and children — I cannot believe the utter cluelessness or indifferent the ALA and leading public library directors have demonstrated. While they’re making an (arguable in my view) first amendment policy justification, people are focusing on the “poster boys”. Libraries are being mocked by prominent satirists (The Onion and Jon Stewart) as well as mainstream news coverage. The juxtaposition of the terms library&porn and images of porn users alongside the word library are devastating to the brand. This is a public relations disaster.

    No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
    On Feb 8, commenter “D” eloquently pointed out the pitfalls of libraries positioning themselves as purveyors of “every piece of data without considering its meaning and value”. Ben has pointed out some theoretical problems above and a few posts back “Me” pointed out the practical problems with this stance. This is an unmanageable, untenable proposition and it’s only going to get worse as content and access options continue to proliferate.

    I think libraries are being really irresponsible spending public funds on service models and resources they cannot adequately manage. Porn may be the most aggregious & visible manifestation of the issue, tho far from the only one.

    • Winston says:

      Jean, you are so right and it’s a shame that the ALA continues to sully our brand with this issue. The library’s brand has been tradition: the old Boston Public Library thing – the gothic reading rooms that many remember from their old colleges, lots of oak and high ceilings, places that offered sanctuary for reflection and contemplation; secular churches devoted to reading and learning. This image has endured and helps explain why we continue to have so much support in our communities. The ALA was never able to get over their loss in fighting CIPA. Their thinking is so convoluted that they think the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding CIPA means that libraries must remove the filter at the request of an adult. That’s why the ALA’s Office for Intellectual freedom advises that libraries that don’t remove the filter expose themselves to a first ammendment lawsuit. This is a thinly veiled threat to any library that doesn’t toe the ALA line and is remarkably similar to the extortionist style or organized crime: if you filter pornography at your library, you may get sued. They aren’t as worried about the work environment for library employees and any lawsuits related to that.

    • Winston – thanks for appreciating my arguments. My comments are often received by library staff as personal attacks and they respond with personal attacks back to me. I’m on your side, really.

      Part of my message is that we’ve set our library staff up to fail. For at least 4 decades we have ignored the structural dilemmas within our library ecosystem. We have perpetuated a system that was conceived a century ago and now struggles to meet contemporary needs and manage contemporary resources. To stoke support, library leaders evoke images of Library as place of learning, democracy and freedom but has done nothing substantive to make it possible to sustain that role. Moreover, in a feeble quest for self-preservation, libraries have been led down a path of “anything goes as long as it keeps the doors open”.

      We’re still training librarians for the old practice and then asking them to work in this new model. Library staff are being asked to be librarians, retail workers, security guards, web designers, social service workers and god knows what else. The absence of leadership has also accrued toward a mess with regard to digital resources. The library community has not meaningfully engaged content providers & suppliers and as a result library staff are asked to support hundreds of poorly designed applications/databases and complex acquisition contracts they don’t understand. It’s a setup for failure.

      Libraries hang on because the Institution has done such good work for us in the 20th century and there is still good work done in them today. The “setup for failure” is like a slow-growing cancer though and will eventually kill them. (I fear we’ll see a great library contraction by the end of this decade.) It’s not too late to apply some treatment, for the Institution is still strong enough to respond. But time is growing short.

  8. burgess meredith says:

    let’s face it, as librarians we ALL hate the internet. not because of porn, mind you, but for more insidious reasons: it has made librarians redundant and attacked our core role as arbiters of taste, gatekeepers, and self-proclaimed protectors of social mores. librarians are just this side of teachers and the republican party when it comes to a holier-than-thou self-righteousness and desire to re-make society in our image. unfettered access to porn in the library creates the intended hysteria, a modern day mccarthyism seeking not a red under every bed but a creeper at every internet station. thank you annoyed librarian for ramping up the fear factor, you’ve done old grandpa joe proud.

  9. Libraryman says:

    One thing annoys me is that the common argument against filtering software is that they block useful things “Like chicken breast recipes.” With good software I have not seen this be the case. I think it’s just an excuse not to use software which is far easier than policing for Child pornographers.

    • Andrew says:

      Software doesn’t even have to enter into it really. You could just go the old fashioned route of banning people from the library if you see them breaking library rules.

    • Timothy says:

      We have had this problem. We are an Aussie library and American vendors tend to support your, not our, social mores. So, when I first tried our filtering software out, it was cutting out any reference to gays. It did let me view hardcore porn, which we don’t allow in our library (no porn, no images of torture, no images of intrusively horrible surgical techniques, nothing illegal (ie nothing which advoctaes violence toward a minority for its minority status).

  10. YourLibrarian says:

    I know I am a lot happier professionally now that my library has an administration that actually expects people to act like civilized human beings in public and not throw away standards in the name of access. I have no problem at all kicking out teenage boys and mocking them in most condescending way possible for as I put it for extra humiliation “looking at boobies on the internet”. The grown ups just get a visit from security, but thankfully they aren’t allowed to use the computers in my department anyhow.

  11. Yep, agreed. says:

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that anyone ballsy enough to view porno in a library computer lab is way creepy. Creepy, creepy, creepy.

    • Little Law Librarian says:

      Nah, they think a public access computer equates to their personal computer. It isn’t and shouldn’t be people that need access to public computers shouldn’t have to compete with the pervs. We do not filter, but we also don’t any qualms about removing people who are using the computers in this manner. We have also removed functionality that doesn’t support our stated public pc policy. E.g computers have no sound, youtube and facebook and others are blocked. Not because we are evil censors, but because our public computers are for the purpose of legal research and writing period.

  12. As I said in my latest blog post, I am quietly building an organization of those who are not indifferent to porn in libraries, etc. Librarians willing to stand against harmful ALA policy, tactics, and indifference that endangers children may wish to contact me. All will be kept confidential. Already a number have reached out to me.

    @Libraryman, you said the chicken breast excuse is just an excuse. Barbara Jones, director of the ALA’s OIF, just said the breast cancer excuse was no longer valid, a week after using it:

    http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2012/02/ala-admits-library-filters-work-barbara.html

  13. I Like Books says:

    Here’s my favorite in responding to challenges to the Library Bill of Rights.

    “Does that mean a child can check out Playboy or other materials intended for adults?: We believe in freedom of choice for all people but we also believe in common sense. It would be extremely unusual for a young child to check out that type of adult material. Most libraries are designed with special areas for children and teenagers. And there are librarians to provide assistance. We also provide suggested reading lists to help them make appropriate choices. Our goal is to provide the best possible service for young people, and we are very proud of what we offer. If you haven’t been to our library recently, we encourage you to come and see for yourself!”

    In other words, yes, a child can check out Playboy any time he or she likes. And if the author thinks it would be extremely unusual for a child to “check out” adult material like that, she must never have been a boy.

    http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/challengeslibrarymaterials/copingwithchallenges/strategiestips

  14. Felicia says:

    Maybe I’m naive, but I can’t believe that librarians as a group, are corrupting the innocent, white youth of American by allowing them check-out adult material from the library and be around abject sex perverts. It’s rare that that would happen, so why do so many Americans act as if that’s common practice at libraries and that we have to “Do something, for the children!!!”

    Child pornography is beyond obscene and it’s illegal, so yes, people who view child pornography should be not only banned from the library but arrested, etc. I think most librarians would report it even if they only strongly suspected such a vile crime. Or, again, am I being naive about that?

    I’m a middle-aged African American woman. And I’m an alumna of Fordham University College at Lincoln Center. Last summer, I was accused not by a librarian, but by security guards(one of them also a black woman, the other, her boss, a white man) at FCLC Quinn library of looking at porn. –I was actually viewing pictures of Buddhist and Hindu art.

    They escorted me to the security office, took my id away and wouldn’t give it back. I had to call the police to get my id and make them explain why they tried to hold me. The cop talked to them and it turns out that they thought I was looking at pictures of women’s butts, “Big Black Butts!” They didn’t believe I was only researching Eastern/religious art for a book project I was working on.

    (I think they were both Catholic and equated any form of nudity with graphic pornography. I’m not a Catholic/Christian. I also don’t believe that all adult, sexually explicit images are obscene, or, that all little boys and girls are necessarily scarred for life if they happen to see an adult at the library looking at nudes.)

    I reported the incident to the alumni office and the director of security. A few weeks later, I was “cleared” by the director after he conducted a “forensic investigation” of the computer I’d used. I still threatened to sue the guards and the university, just for the hell of it. I accused them of racial profiling, sexism and blatant stupidity. Yet, I seriously think that deep down they thought they were protecting sacred values and community standards of decency, or something like that.

    The director and alumni office sent me 3 or 4 emails apologizing profusely and I eventually let it go.

    But this is why I’m against filters and trying to control what adults do a libraries so much.

    I think most librarians would report real, serious crimes immediately. I don’t blame them for not wanting to put filters on library computers. It really does filter a lot of legitimate information. The supreme court ruled that libraries have right to do install filters, but I’ve always assumed most don’t because it’s too much of a hassle to disable a lot these filters quickly, or to make them just so they only filter out the really “obscene” stuff.

    Most public libraries I’ve visited are large enough so that they can have separate, screened off areas for people who may to view legitimate photographic images and films for art, medical science, etc. research.

    And, in my experience, most libraries and museums do restrict the viewing of sexually explicit photos and films to screened off areas and ban people they think have violated library rules or committed crimes. But maybe that’s just in NYC.

    I do not believe that the ALA is advocating for perverts to be able to openly view child porn. They just don’t want to take any chances on restricting access to legitimate information, though it might contain explicit nudity, or other types of content some people may find obscene.

    I find Rush Limbaugh extremely obscene, but I don’t want radio producers to ban him from the radio.

    • Nicole says:

      That is insane! “Big Black Butts” hahahaha. I’m surprised this happened at a university library. Wth? I don’t think nudity equals porn, either, by the way. Maybe cause I saw lots of naked people at public pools and in commercials growing up, lol.

  15. Nicole says:

    I grew up going to libraries. I loved them. The internet came around to our libraries when I was 15 or 16. I lived in Germany and used the military base libraries, where we had 30 minute internet time limits and no one would dare look at porn. Years later and I have my own kids and would never take them to a public library. Last two times I went in one, there was a pervert watching porn. I’m not talking about softcore porn, either. One guy was rubbing himself and grunting, the other was sitting there with his mouth hanging open. That’s not a family place. I don’t care if there’s a separate adult computer section; taking my kids to a place where adults watch porn is not happening. That would be awesome if the internet computers were in a separate part of the building, with a separate entrance and all. (Ah, the pre-internet library days. It was so QUIET back then, lol.) Or have a kids’ library in a separate section (again with a separate entrance). Alright, time for bed. It’s really just sad what’s become of some libraries.

  16. Disgusted says:

    I have to agree that it is wrong to view porn in the library. I’ll tell you my situation – I have been coming to library regularly for 6 months hoping to land a job. In that time, there is a very creepy person who I will refer to as BUGBEARD. Older, not clean looking with a disgusting long beard. You know the type – one who looks like a pedophile. In the last 4 months this creep has been coming into the library everyday and accessing older adult, explicit anonymous sex sites. He even has the nerve to turn the screen to the wall. (Which is not allowed). I guess he was hoping for a date but I doubt that will ever happen. He has even sat next to me countless times and I am therfore forced to move out of disgust. He has sat next to young boys, and accessed this gay oriented material. This is not right! While he is viewing his adult material he coughs constantly, (doesn’t cover his mouth), and makes comments out loud about his possible dates. This all transpires in the company of young children. They have to use the computers as well. My library does nothing about it! Only one time was he told to not turn the screen, followed what he was told, and went right back to his disgusting behavior. It’s sad when my taxes pay for a creepy jerk like this BUGBEARD to have free unrestricted access to objectionable material. A friend of mine told me I should talk to the librarian and then threaten to go to the police. Perhaps I will as I find my self with no other recourse. What if small children wind up seeing him accessing pictures of grandpa doing another grandpa??? It may sound funny, but that is what he looks at with no regard for anyone but himself. I’m all for free speech and the first amendment rights, but when he is accessing a picture of grandpa in the buffo with a raging hard-on, something is wrong with the system!!!

  17. Disgusted says:

    Oh yes! The title of this article is perfect for the creep I have to put up with. BUGBEARD is THE poster creep for library porn.

    • Disgusted says:

      A brief folow-up to my prior posting. Well, my head librarian at my library did indeed do something about BUGBEARD. She responded to an email that I wrote to her concerning his vile behavior. She said that she would bring it to the attention of the entire staff and if I should see something again,(mind you he does this every day), I should pass a note or something to tell the staff so they could catch him in the act. Well, no need for that because the creep was in again, went to log onto a computer and it appears that the librarian blocked his card. Much to his dismay, he stormed up to the front desk and told a staff member that he had renewed his card only last week. They informed him that he would have to speak to the librarian. I overheard the conversation and he went on to say just how “embarresed” he felt. She told him not to angle the screen anymore. (I am not sure if she confronted him about the porn). She then said that if he compllied she would unblock the card. Well, she unblocked it and he went right back to viewing his salacious materials. Well I tried to get it to stop. I even told her I would bring it to the local newspaper. She assured me that she would bring the matter to the library director. I hope she did but he is still viewing inappropriate material and coughing without covering his vile mouth. I guess a person can just get away with anything… I am clueless as to what to do next…

  18. Another news account of “library porn” reveals how damaging this issue is for libraries. Same story: man viewing porn, parent uncomfortable, library staff says there is nothing she can do. The twist comes at the end:

    A library spokesman explained the law to me but refused an interview. He also initially did not want to let ABC-7 inside the library, until asked to provide a statute or ordinance that prohibited ABC-7 from entering a public building. He did not do that and granted ABC-7 access.

    This makes it look like the library is admitting and protecting porn-fans and prohibiting access to the press. Not good.

    It also demonstrates how the official library stance on this matter puts front-line library staff in the cross-fire. Rightfully or not, the issue gets boiled down to “protect perverts or protect children”. Front line staff and the library brand will be damned either way.