Because the art books kept going missing

The Sac library system wants to put butts in the seats by allowing butts on their computer screens:

Sacramento, Apr 29, 2008 / 09:23 pm (CNA).- The Sacramento Library Authority Board voted last Thursday to retain its policy of minimal interference with patrons who access pornography on library computers, News10 Sacramento reports. Board members also voted to spend $21,000 for more computer monitors with recessed screens to allow more private viewing.

Recessed screens? How about just set up a whole private booth complete with neon lights?

Board member Robbie Waters explained his support for $21,000 for more private computer screens, saying he wanted people to be able to exercise their right to be able to view whatever they would like. “It allows the screen to come right up at you and nobody can look over your shoulders,” Waters said.

This might be one of the most ridiculous decisions made by a public library that I’ve ever seen. Is perversion not pervasive enough, that now parents can’t take their kids to Sacramento’s libraries unsupervised?

And, just one request to you commenters. Please refrain from commenting on the “exercise their right” or “allows the scene to come right up at you”. It’s a little too obvious, even for the Sac Rag.

30 thoughts on “Because the art books kept going missing”

  1. Wow, this is quite the sensationalistic take on a complicated issue. I believe the library officials who upheld this policy defend it because they want people to have the right to view whatever information they want using publicly funded equipment without prior review.

    This is a big difference from saying that they encourage the viewing of pornography (the News10 story mentions a claim that there were only 11 complaints about objectionable material out of 500,000 hours of library internet use). The discussions at the policy meeting* centered on how intensive it would be for librarians to make case-by-case decisions of what defines pornography.

    *I didn’t actually go to the meeting…but I watched some of the televised version while doing laundry. Hard to skip the channel when people are venting about porn at a stuffy library meeting.

    I’m not saying the library’s decision is right or wrong on this, but it’s a lot more nuanced and complicated than “LET THE KIDDIES SEE BOOBIES LOL!”

    It’s funny you blindingly accept the take on this story of the Catholic
    News Agency on this; I wonder if people had complained to the library about Harry Potter books and gotten rejected, and the CNA printed their take on it. What would the story here be? “Librarians want children to practice witchcraft”?

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  2. you think the kids are going to the library for porn? why would they when they can wait until you go to bed and use your home machine. kids are waaay more savvy on the computer than you give them credit. you can run all the filters you want at home but a simple usb flash drive and a copy of firefox portable gets right past. my boss has been trying to lock down the entire internet for a year now…and here i am.

    also, i’m pretty sure i read that the library has had less than 5 complaints involving porn at the library

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  3. Right AWN SinghCity.

    Dan, you can’t honestly be comparing Harry Potter to perverts at the library viewing porn with children around.

    TP: kids viewing porn is not the issue, the safety of kids around perverts sitting comfortably in the library viewing porn is the issue.

    People who stand up for the “right to do whatever you want” are fooling themselves. Everybody at some point wants to censor something. As with all things, it comes back to The Simpsons:

    Chief Wiggum: [In his underwear] Yeah, I say if it feels good, do it.
    Dr. Julius Hibbert: Alright.
    [stretches Wiggum’s underwear and snaps him with them – laughs histerically]
    Chief Wiggum: Don’t snap my undies.

    Everybody wears undies to a degree. Some peoples’ undies are real undies, other peoples’ undies are other people expressing outrage that our tax money helps perverts to better do their porns around children 🙂

    Go SinghCity!

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  4. I suppose you could say that everyone has an El Guapo. For some, shyness may be an El Guapo. For others, lack of education may be an El Guapo. But for us, El Guapo is a large ugly man who wants to kill us!

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  5. I am not even sure why taxpayers are footing the bill for public internet workstations. Before people start the whole “but not everyone has a computer” argument, my position remains the same. Why are tax dollars going towards this? Especially when it appears that even the librarians themselves are saying they can’t/won’t monitor the use. The fact that the arguement has been reduced to a discussion on porn in the public is silly. What about hate speech? It isn’t OK for a nutcase to go to a public park and carve “Heather Fargo kills Jews” in trees and start posting signage to that effect. But then somehow it is ok if they are doing that via the web at the library because it is a public institution? I like how “public” has become synonymous with no boundaries. Just because something is public does not mean that it does not comes with restrictions. In Sacramento an of age individual still can’t drink alcohol in a public park. At least not without a permit from the city.

    If you want to view goat porn, update your white-supremacist website, or download your favorite mp3s, go for it. Just doesn’t seem like it should be acceptable in a public building. Most state and city workers have restrictions on web use, don’t see why the library can’t do the same. Seems like the appropriate middle ground is to provide wireless internet for people and let users do whatever they want provided it is on their own private property (i.e. Their laptop,etc) and it isn’t illegal.

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  6. how much trouble would I get in for searching for the deleted scenes involving hermione, ron and severin in a devil’s three way.

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  7. Cool> No, I’m making the point that the complaint brought by the ACLU in this library case is based on concerns that librarians would be too restrictive on what would constitute inappropriate material.

    Other libraries have been sued because these filters, ostensibly to protect against pornography, have blocked material that some people wouldn’t consider to be porn, including research on youth smoking, art gallery sites, and firearms discussion.

    The Sacramento library, as I understand it in their agenda item, is concerned that there isn’t a good way to define inappropriate material without infringing on legitimate speech.

    So honestly, what’s the worst you think can happen if someone is depraved enough to view porn on a public computer? That they’re going to masturbate right then and there? That’s clear illegal activity. Or do you think that once they’re done viewing porn, they’re going to molest the first child they see? If so, how do you feel about the library having copies of Lolita?

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  8. sacpadre> Those aren’t good comparisons. State workers can’t view porn on their computers because that goes against the workplace conduct. A patron at a library isn’t working. It’s easy to put a restrictive law on no underage drinking at a park because either you or you aren’t, a) drinking and b) underage. The reason why libraries are struggling with the whole filter issue is because the line between appropriate and inappropriate material is not as clear. Also, as the library notes, viewing pornography is legal. Drinking under 21 is illegal.

    As someone of a libertarian bent, yes, I do wonder if we need publicly funded libraries, or publicly funded anything. But as the taxpayers have implicitly allowed for this funding…I can see why a libertarian might either a) be offended that someone is getting their jollies with public money and b) be wary of public money (i.e. librarian salaries and filter software) being used to block free speech. That’s the core of the conflict here.

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  9. DMZ> In my layman opinion, an act is given legal status not only because of the act itself, but where and when it is done. Like smoking. Or being naked. Maybe a lawyer here can give an accurate take on this, but I’ve vaguely understood the penal code (313) to protect the viewing of pornography but to prohibit the exhibition or distribution of this material to minors.

    It seems that the library is attempting to meet this requirement with the recessed screens (do they actually work? I don’t know, but that’s a tangent here…let’s assume for the sake of argument they’ve come up with a technology that makes a computer’s screen all but invisible to the non-user)

    If this is the case, then pornography in a public place is Constitutionally protected speech. How can the library lawfully ban such material when the statutes don’t appear to give them that power? And if it were possible to legally do so, in practical terms, what kind of system should the library have in place to decide what is and isn’t allowable?

    Framing this as, should they allow pornography or not, is missing the forest for the trees. I’m sure just about every librarian would love to ban pornography. But they realize a) they legally can’t and b) they can’t in a practical sense.

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  10. Obscenity is not an absolutely Constitutionally protected right, FYI. The law contemplates treating obscene material differently than other expressive material – for example by zoning adult bookstores.

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  11. HeyMeg> We need a lawyer here. But my understanding is that pornography is not necessarily “obscene”, as defined by the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings. Obscenity is a legal term that refers to explicitly *illegal* material. Not all pornography is illegal, and therefore, not all pornography is “obscene”.

    But that’s just quibbling. You’re right, cities do have the right to zone for uses. This is not relevant to the library case, obviously, because it’s not a zoning issue.

    Just looking at the legal opinions provided to the library, it looks like they’re basing this on the 2003 Supreme Court decision regarding the American Library Association. The Court ruled that it was OK withhold federal funding to libraries that don’t use filters. OTOH, the Sac library also sees the justices’ decision based on the assumption that a library must allow unfiltered access upon request.

    So in short, if you don’t like the idea of pornography being viewed at the library, elect a president who will appoint justices that will re-interpret the past decisions.

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  12. I think that those high gas prices are obscene. They should have to pixilate the roadside signs at gas stations…

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  13. Why not just have the state buy all the porn Shoppes with Lotto/Indian “Gaming” money, and rebrand the Shoppes as Librarys? Then the “Book” libraries can be for the kids and real wierdos, and the porn people can go to the porn Shoppes.

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  14. Dan the combination of links + the word porn got your earlier comment spammed, sorry.

    I think most of us understand the libertarian argument on this. I hope you can understand the argument that favoring “minimum interference” to people who want to get their porn in a public place over “minimum effort” to protect children in a public place is twisted and worthy of mockage.

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  15. Porn is a great word. Everyone knows what it means, but it means something different to each person. I’m anti

    A library patron viewing an episode of “the new adventures of old christine” in front of 7 year old children would be inappropriate. The subject matter in recent episodes has included incest and casual sex.

    I might be concerned about breast cancer and watch some slow motion videos of breast self exam. Is that porn. Am I sick? Is it porn if I get aroused while watching it? What is the definition?

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  16. Minimum effort? That’s the librarians’ problem here; having an overbearing filter, that has in cases all around the country, blocked out health and other non-pornographic sites (like Univision)…would cause, in the library’s opinion, a burden on both the staff and users. It’s important to note that the library, because of their policy, actually loses $21K in federal funding…so I don’t quite get the accusation that the library is doing this out of apathy.

    According to Cosmo at the SN&R, the ACLU’s review found 24 complaints about Internet content among 3 million logins over three years. Is there any other situation, besides something like airport security, where an institution should risk violating Constitutional precedent for such a small risk? I bet there is a similar rate of occurance of young males streaking high school/college athletic events…yet no one is suggesting that we require all male sport attendees to wear hard-to-remove codpieces for the sake of the children. Keep in mind that streaking, in some states, can put you on the sex offender registry.

    I don’t mean to make a big serious debate out of all of topic that is just ripe for humor…but seriously, am I the only one here who is a little bit amazed that, despite a crowd of anti-pornography activists and the massive stigma public officials incur whenever they even discuss pornography…that a governmental board favored complex Constitutional precedent over the knee-jerk “save the children!” sentiment? I’m all for protecting the children, but there’s some actual First Amendment issues here that the original poster obviously overlooked.

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  17. This is one of those things that makes “agree to disagree” cliche for a reason. There is the First Amendment, and there is protecting children. No American who is sound mentally thinks either one is unimportant. Library filtering happens to be one of those issues where unfortunately the right answer is going to piss off somebody either way. Both sides of this issue get people fired up. Anyway good talk and glad to have your visits!!

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  18. Thank goodness for Dan’s comments on this. Libraries have been targeted by the current administration under Homeland Security to provide the gov with a record of everything you ever checked out or looked at in the library. Of course, it’s all in the interest of “fighting terrorism.”

    Protecting the children by removing someone else’s rights sounds like an overly emotional reaction to me. As a parent, I keep my kids nearby at all times while in the library or at a retail store or elsewhere. If you don’t know where your kid is, then you can’t protect him or her. It doesn’t matter whether someone’s rights to certain information are blocked or not. Safety starts with good parenting.

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  19. Ursula: your rights get limited all the time to protect other people. Otherwise why would it be illegal to drive drunk, if drinking is legal? This is my point: don’t drink and drive. No wait, that’s not my point. My point is…something something porn bad me go liberry.

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  20. must…stop…chiming…in…oh well, it’s Friday:

    Cool> Yes, courts and the legislature have made it pretty clear that outlawing drunk driving is within the Constitution. This is not remotely the case with this library issue, and that’s why decent-minded, children-loving library officials are divided over this.

    And I’d like to point out that even in as clear-cut issue as DUIs, there is debate over what the allowable BAC should be. Some people think it should be 0.04. Some people think that would imprison people who are no more incapable of driving than people who drive while eating, or after an all-night study party, or while listening to Fall Out Boy. This gray area also exists in the debate between what is appropriate and inappropriate at the library, and I would argue in a much bigger way.

    And while we apparently don’t have lawyers in this discussion, the library did. Their opinions fill a 60+ page report on the Internet Use policy.

    And finally…since the original poster framed the no-policy-change advocates as pro-pornography, why not look at the extremes of the other side. According to Cosmo’s column, these board members expressed their views as: “Excuse my language, but screw folks’ constitutional right” and “It would probably break every rule in the book, but I’d say go and unplug every computer in every library.”

    It’s not really helpful to frame this debate as perverts versus fascists.

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  21. I should have specified…rights to INFORMATION…no more kristallnacht.

    Driving under the influence is like playing with a loaded gun in a crowd. Big difference from looking at or reading something objectionable to others. While I may disapprove of pornographic writing or photography, I may also disapprove of certain parts of the Bible. That doesn’t mean I think you should yank the public access to it.

    Librarians should not have to be policemen.

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  22. TRUE STORY

    May 13, 2008 – Colonial Heights Library – Terminal 10

    I am sitting at a table near the computer terminals working on Geometry with one of my students. He is smirking. I am thinking that my lesson on proofs is really making sense to him. Great teaching, I am thinking to myself… His smirks turn to shear terror. He urgently points. He laughs robustly. I turn, thinking its this guy that farts a lot, only to see man on chick ACTION – THE DIRTY KIND!! I turn around in disbelief. I check again… oh yeah, that is sex. I tell my hysterical 15 year old male student to go to another table. Did you think that was bad? Oh wait, it just got worse. Perv at terminal 10 prints off a picture for himself to remember it by. Runs to the printer and pays for his print – 10 cents. Not bad enough? Perv walks around the information counter to grab the restroom key and proceeds to head in there for 10 minutes – with his printed material. I wonder if he just had to take a dump? Hmmm…

    So Ursula you are correct. Librarians should not have to be policemen. They should be dealing with books – not porn, not pervs, not myspace or computers.

    (The terminal number is referenced so you can avoid the sticky keys…)

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  23. Yikers amrit, that stinks. I think what Dan and Ursula etc are not thinking about is what it is actually like to be confronted with this problem, as you were. Also: that dude that farts a lot, he must be stopped.

    The other thing people don’t realize is that the library makes decisions about what materials to make available every day. For example, they don’t have action of the dirrty kind in paper periodical form, if you will. Where is the outrage for that?

    Libraries know how to choose what material to make available, it’s part of what they do. The technology to filter out inappropriate content exists, the library just has to catch up to the times. I’d rather pay for that.

    And Ursula I can’t believe I gave you a pass on
    a) comparing porn filters to Kristallnacht, and
    b) comparing questionable Bible verses to pornographic pictures

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  24. Ugh…here we go again…

    First of all, what do you mean that the library “has to catch up to the times”? The library DOES have filtering software (since at least 2001) and AFAIK, turns it on by default.

    It’s a little presumptuous of you to say that I, nor any of the board members who voted to leave the policy unchanged, have never ever even remotely contemplated the unpleasantness of seeing someone else’s porn (hello…this happens to 90 percent of people who have ever had college roommates). Just like it would be presumptuous of me to say that you’ve never contemplated the unpleasantness of overbearing censorship by a governmental entity.

    I’m sure you have. So in a situation where there are competing evils, how do we decide between them? By which side can come up with the most unpleasant anecdote? Or by considering the available statistics and Constitutional precedent? I would love it if situations like amrit’s could be eliminated – I don’t think anyone in the library system would disagree. But the reality, in the opinion of the library board, is that it isn’t possible without exposing the library to legal and practical challenges.

    You’re right that library systems, since the history of libraries, have made decisions about what is allowed in their libraries. Filtering the Internet, though, is a different ballpark. One of the most relevant differences is that when a library decides to use filtering software, they are ceding their selective authority to a commercial third-party database. When a library selects books for purchase, they (usually) know what content they’re bringing in and what content they are not. In the case of a filtering program, they do not, which is the core of the complaint by the ACLU.

    I want to reiterate that I neither support nor oppose the library’s status quo. I do think, though, that the ones who voted for the status quo deserve more than to be labeled as porn lovers. They may have made the wrong decision, but there’s some reason and legal backing to it, and it’s kind of sad to see intelligent people here dismiss it in favor of knee-jerk reactions to pornography.

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  25. Legal challenges legal schmalleges. Outlawing slavery posed legal challenges. Couldn’t amrit’s student’s parents sue the library?

    Filtering the internet is a different ballpark, perhaps existing in a different time, like the current time. If the library wishes to play in this ballpark they will have to play on that new time. A good cliche for this would be
    “the library has to get with the times.”

    At no point did anyone label the library as porn lovers. Ursula did however label me a Nazi. Hi Ursula.

    If you admit that the library “may have made the wrong decision” then what are we even talking about? SinghCity “may be” right, which I think he’d be happy with, but the issue is complicated, and we can all go home happy.

    Knee-jerk is one of those phrases that should be retired. Everybody’s reaction that you disagree with is knee-jerk.

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  26. CoolDMZ, so what law exactly would you like to overturn or change that would solve the library’s problems?

    I don’t mean to offend with the knee-jerk phrase, but I can’t avoid thinking that’s what happened here. First of all, I don’t disagree with the opposing side’s conclusion in this thread; I disagree with the line of reasoning that has so far led to that conclusion.

    The original post’s author is about as knee jerk as you can get…He bases his conclusion on a story that selectively cribs another story of the meeting, apparently making little attempt to actually read for himself the actual case and documentation. Hell, even his rhetorical question is flawed. Parents have been expected to supervise their children in public places, even before the advent of computers. Libraries aren’t nanny centers, and many of them have specific policies regarding leaving children unsupervised.

    When I say the library “may” have made the wrong decision, I’m pretty much saying that I’m more interested in what laws and principles were considered, rather than just the conclusion reached, because there is no easy solution.

    Anecdotes and “protecting the children” is not the trump card, and as far as I know, has never been when it comes to our laws, not in U.S v. American Library Association, U.S. v. Playboy Entertainment, or in the overturning of the Child Online Protection Act. And it’s not in this case, because the bulletproof solution would be to remove all Internet access from computers, period, because even the best filters won’t catch all material that would be developmentally harmful to children.

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