Reminders of courteous behavior instead of filters in San Jose

I read it first on Librarian in Black but liked the coverage of the Mercury News. The San Jose Public Library decided to not add filters to the public library computers after a year and a half of debate. One of the points made by the article is that startup costs to add filters would be about $90,000 with annual maintenance costs of $5,000. You can read the final policy statement here (pdf). In includes the fact that, out of almost 1.4 million computer login sessions at SJ Public Libraries (excluding the King Library), library staff received two complaints of lewd behavior and only one complaint to staff about pornography viewing. The King Library, the main library, had a similar number of login sessions and 14 complaints about pornography viewing.

Topeka Library Board Restricts Access to Four Books

Library Journal put up a quick article about the Topeka Library Board’s decision from yesterday to restrict access to four books with sexual themes. I was following most of the meeting, in realtime with photos by keeping an eye on David Lee King’s twitter feed (starting about here) as I was in my all day meeting. Here’s the brief story from the AP Wire. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this story.

One lawyer at the meeting told the newspaper he had already been approached by potential plaintiffs. “Because it would take these books off the shelves and place them out of reach of patrons browsing the shelves, the proposed policy is unconstitutional,” warned the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri in a letter to the board.

loyalty, the library, and you the librarian

I’ve been sort of sitting on this story for a few weeks because I was hoping someone would do a more comprehensive “here’s what really happened” post about it, but maybe that’s not going to happen. The loose outline is this, from American Libraries. Library worker notices patron looking at material online that she suspects is not just offensive but illegal. Her supervisor tells her to give the patron (who is deaf/mute and may have developmental disabilities) a note telling him to stop, which she does. The next day she decided to alert the police who come and arrest the man and seize the library computer. The library worker revealed her part in the arrest to her supervisor. Soon thereafter, the library worker was fired right before her probationary period as a library employee was up. The county says the two events — the arrest of the patron and the firing — were unrelated. Privacy laws prevent this assertion from being tested one way or the other which is one of the things that makes this situation so vexing from a “what really happened” perspective. The library worker is suing. Here are a few more articles on the subject.

I really wish ALA had come out and made some sort of a statement on this, but I’m not sure what it would have said. For what it’s worth, I have not seen anyone leap to the defense of the library administrator/firing except in a “we don’t have all the facts” sort of way.

To me, the way this differs from the standard USA PATRIOT Act computer seizures and reporting is that in this case the assertio was that a crime was being committed. So, while going on fishing expeditions and seizing computers because you think someone might be doing something illegal is something that a library has the right to object to, saying “this patron is breaking the law in the library” is a different story altogether. I think even talking about child pornography issues online is difficult and complicated — an amusing side note is seeing which comments forms on the web people can’t type the word “porn” into — and intellectual freedom issues are tricky in a different way. I’m sorry this library assistant didn’t get better guidance and I’m sorry this is being tried in the media in sensationalist ways.

what are you for?

My pal Hugh McGuire — you probably know him from Librivox, he swears on his blog too — wrote a post with some words to the wise: Defining What You Are For (just like porn). He explains how one of the reasons porn is so darned profitable is “[b]ecause the porn biz understands exactly what it is for” and then wonders if other institutions like newspapers and libraries really understand what they are for. It’s not primarily a post about libraries, but since Hugh is the president of the Board of Directors of the Atwater Library (a library with a drupal website and an apartment inside it, those who know me know that I hyperventilate as I type this) this is a topic near and dear to him.

But the real value a newspaper performs is not giving me good articles, it’s putting it all together. The mere provision of information is worthless now, because anyone can do it (even me).

This is why blogs – at least in the techno-intelligencia – win. Blogs are excellent selectors of information, while newspapers are pretty clunky at it – because for the past 300 years they existed in an ecosystem where information was scarce. Now information (and access to it) is abundant. So a site like BoingBoing becomes one of the most popular on the net: their craft is not providing information, it’s selecting it. And they’re good at it.

file under: why did you tell anyone?

Package Containing Porn, Pot Mistakenly Sent to Maysville Library. [thanks coldchef]

libraries and librarians on video

A few different links.

  1. Do librarians really love Ask.com? Gary Price discusses the Ask.com television ad [mov file] where the founder of Ask.com says “If librarians love us, then I think the world should love us too.”
  2. WKYC’s news program “investigates” what they see as the growing scourge of porn in libraries. Here is the original newscast which includes [non-graphic] footage of them “catching” a man masturbating to porn in the library.
  3. Almost Live’s takeoff on COPS, featuring librarians
  4. bonus video: Conan the Librarian
  5. double plus bonus video: the filipino librarian’s I Am A Librarian video, a response to this

how responsible is the librarian for the internet?

Steven IMed me about the library director who was suspended with pay because of patrons — including a registered sex offender — allegedly viewing porn in the library. The City Commissioner is recommending that she be fired. I posted it to the Council list and was told the Washington office was aware of the situation. Rochelle wrote a few words about it, and now the entire affair has been slashdotted. The library has filters apparently, but they’re imperfect. The staff does walk-throughs of the computer areas but, apparently, they are imperfect also. Let’s also rememebr that this is Florida, the state that doesn’t let sex offenders into hurricane shelters and perhaps you’ll see what we’re up against.

the quest for the perfect filter

What do you do when you’re using CIPA-approved filters in your library and patrons or politicians want you to use filters that will block ALL pornography? In this case, in Pennsylvania, it looks like the local paper gets it right.

article: Allegheny County Councilman Vince Gastgeb, R-Bethel Park, hopes libraries across the county will adopt even stricter measures to prevent similar incidents. He wants the eiNetwork, the computer network that links the 44 public library systems of the Allegheny County Library Association, to use filters capable of blocking all pornographic or inappropriate material found on the Web.

editorial: With such an alarm sounded, someone might think libraries in the county are hotbeds of vice. In reality, they are centers of serious learning and improvement presided over by librarians, who rank among the most respectable members of society. It would be hard to find any group of people more dedicated and less inclined to tolerate those who would pollute their sanctum.

[thanks megan]

I go to Utah for all my porn, you?

The biggest laugh of my talk was probably when I was discussing classes I’d like to teach but can’t. I mentioned where to find the really good porn and people thoughtit was funny, something about a sort of frumpy library lady saying that made it double-plus-good, even though I really do know where it is… Thanks to Utah’s new censorware law, maybe we can just get the list of good porn sites from them.

classes I wish I could teach at my library

Aaron outlines a few classes he wishes he could teach at his library. I have always maintained a similar list in my head, here are some titles.

“Where is all the porn that people are talking about?” Even in an unfiltered environment, good free porn can be hard to find. We’ll discuss how to locate what you’re really looking for and learn all new meanings for the words virus and trojan.

“P2P, it’s not just for music and porn anymore!” With more people joining peer-to-peer networks lately, there’s more to download than ever before. You can get software, television shows and even games. Learn how to effectively search and download whole new media types.

“How to really cover your tracks” While it’s pretty difficult to be truly anonymous on the ‘net, there are a handful of techniques that can boost your anonymity above the threshhold of most average citizens ability to figure out who you are.