access to reading lists in prison libraries

There’s an interesting little article in the New York Times today about whether the prison reading list of a prisoner can be used against them in a trial. The case involves a 2007 home invasion and murder in Connecticut. The defense has indicated that the books that one of the accused men had checked out of the prison library prior to the crime were “criminally malevolent in the extreme.”

In a motion last month, the defense lawyers referred to “Department of Correction library books.” They noted that Mr. Hayes, who spent much of his life in Connecticut jails, had borrowed “one or more books of fiction whose plots can fairly be described as salacious and criminally malevolent in the extreme.” The lawyers were trying to block any reference to Mr. Hayes’s prison reading before the Cheshire crime at his trial. They said a mention of the books would be “highly inflammatory and very prejudicial to the defendant.”

In a strange twist, there have been two books already published about the murders that residents are trying to have banned from the local library. More on this from Library Journal recounting a program from ALA Annual.

man using library wifi after hours gets laptop confiscated

This story about a guy being busted for using public wifi is making the rounds and, like the recent scrotum story, has a lot of possible ways of interpreting events. Short story: guy gets busted for using public library wifi when library is closed, gets laptop confiscated for up to a week. Longer story is in the details.

  • Guy in question has been asked to not use wifi in residential neighborhoods and so moved himself to outside of the library. Police officer might have a grudge, or a point.
  • Library wifi is normally turned off after hours but they have been waiting for a technician to “install a timer” (hint: look for off button, works just as well)
  • The police officer took the laptop to inspect it to see what the guy was downloading but since the library director is on vacation, they’ll be keeping it until the director gets back. They claim to be putting together a warrant to search the laptop.
  • The use of the word “addicting” adds nothing to this story and seems immaterial to it except to stir things up.
  • The police officer claims there are “requirements” to use the wireless, but that is not elaborated on in the story nor is that information available on the library website.
  • No one from the library has commented on the story as of this morning, except they’re quoted to explain how the wireless works, but it’s already around the blogosphere.

So, what to make of this? Is there a law against using wireless that’s made publicly available? Is it okay to confiscate someone’s laptop for a week while you put together a warrant to search it? How much responsibility does the library have to implement technological solutions to enforce their policies (if there is in fact a policy, which is totally unclear from this story)? How much weight does the police officer’s assertion that the guy was “feeding off something that we know the city of Palmer pays for” carry legally? Is this guy really going to face criminal charges? I’m sure there is more to this story and it may make what we know of it make more sense, but for now I’m left scratching my head.

I install wireless access points for libraries and I make the various levels of access crystal clear to them (want a password? want a new password every day? want to turn it off at night? want to limit downloading? want to block certain users? want to make the network invisible?) and let them make their own choices. These are all hardware/software problems, not social problems and certainly not legal problems. They may become legal problems if we shirk responsibility for maintaining and understanding our own technology, but can we please not let it get to that? [link o’ day]

libraries as prime places to steal books for resale

At my library we have been considering raising the limit on the number of DVDs/videos a patron may check out at once. Currently the limit is four. There is no book limit. One of the reasons we were concerned about raising the limit is that DVDs in particular have such a high resale value on the Internet. I saw this article about a library employee who has systematically been reselling DVDs, books and other library items over the Internet for six months and using his access to the library computer to mark them as “checked in” He was turned in because he sold a book to a college president in Illinois who was suspicious about some of the library markings. This sort of thing happens all over, even in sleepy little neighborhoods like mine. Slashdot discusses. What do we do about this? [thanks john]