The Chicago Public Library protects the open and rampant use of Internet pornography by library patrons. This blog is an attempt to bring awareness to this issue and enact change.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What a cute title for an Editorial column!

So - a contributing writer to the Santa Monica Mirror, Steve Stajich, wrote a nice enough editorial column about porn use in his local library called, Santa Monica Library Internet: Please Remain Dot Calm. I say nice enough because I'm sure Stajich meant well. And I don't know him personally, so I have to assume that he really IS looking out to protect the First Amendment. Anyway - the article had the same old arguments about protecting the First Amendment and the same old slams against Internet filters. If you've read one like it already, save yourself the time and energy - don't bother reading this one.

However, in spite of the all-too-common approach to this topic that the article seems to take, I decided it was about high time that I responded. So - I tried to post a comment in response to his article.
I really did.
Several times. However - the automated system kept kicking back with

The text you entetered contains characters or words
that are not allowed.

Please revise your entry and resubmit or
contact the site administrator.

(Typo theirs.)

It has been modified slightly, in case maybe the parenthesis or quotation marks were causing the kickback.

They weren't.

Maybe it was the word "pornography". Or "child pornography". Anyway - it seemed ironic to me that there appears to be censors on the comments system of a editorial column that is so flamboyantly against censorship or restrictions of any kind, or at least those on the Internet.

This is my response. (Post parenthesis and quotation mark modifications.)

I am currently living in Chicago and the Chicago Public Library, CPL, also allows unfettered access to the Internet, including pornography.

You make many good points in this article. But I disagree with some of your arguments. For instance, you quote Mullen as saying that it would be inappropriate to introduce restrictions. Yet, most, if not all, public libraries claim to do just that with the very mention of child pornography. Regardless of the ever-widening reach of adult pornography, child pornography remains illegal and public libraries continue to publicly decry any association with it. There are more than a few cases covered in newspapers Nationwide of arrests for Registered Sex Offenders choosing to view child pornography at a public library. How do public libraries keep child pornography off their computers if not restricting it in some way?

Next, a similar concern also regards our laws. Pornography is considered to be Material Harmful to Minors. Depending on each state, a minor can be any person under 16 or even up to 18 years of age. Because pornography is considered Harmful to Minors, it is generally a punishable offense to display it or use it publicly. Consequences vary, depending on individual state laws.

A public library is very much a public place and children are allowed in all areas of the library, even the computer lab that isn't meant for just them - so why is it that a law that protects them outside of the library is somehow made nonexistent behind the closed doors of their local public library?

You also compared Internet pornography to magazines or disturbing newspapers. I feel that's similar to comparing apples and kiwis. If someone chooses to view a magazine or read a newspaper, those around them are not forced to read it too. Actually, most people in the general area will have no idea what the others are reading. However, a computer screen, similar to a movie screen, especially when you're not the one clicking the mouse and controlling the show, does force all those around to view the same images.

You even mentioned the privacy screens or monitor screen covers in use by the Santa Monica Library. Although the idea of a privacy screen looks great on paper, I assure you, they are less than ideal in real life. Especially at my local branch of the CPL when rows of computer terminals lines up. On one visit, you can be subject to 7 or more screens of second-hand pornography, regardless of age or proclivity towards viewing this material.

Also, public libraries regulate the use of many things while in their buildings. Everything from cell phone use, which is usually banned, to eating, sleeping and even personal hygiene. What if I were to choose to express myself by not showering for a month? Or is my First Amendment somehow violated because I'm not able to talk on the cell phone that I myself purchased while I'm in the library? What about smoking?

Finally, I understand the Freedom of Speech and I very much support our First Amendment Rights - but I do think we need to consider the bigger picture here. Disallowing Internet pornography use does not equal censorship, especially for a multi-billion dollar industry that is in no danger of being shut down. No, instead it states that the public library is not the place for Internet pornography.

Read more!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Everyone gets it. Except CPL, that is.

In this article about the Kingston Frontenac Public Library (Kingston, Canada), Library is Heart of the City, the author clearly illustrates how important this library is to the surrounding community. To be sure, most libraries are clearly important to their community. The CPL is very important to the community in Chicago too - but for some reason they still hold to the belief that they have "no way to control" the rampant Internet pornography use in public spaces.

Below is a quote for the article mentioned above that again illustrates that it's possible to guard intellectual freedom while disallowing Internet pornography use in the library (emphasis mine).
If you can't stomach ugly, evil, partisan, unorthodox or shocking content, avoid the book. The Kingston Frontenac Public Library guards intellectual freedom and the right to choose. But pulling up porn on the Internet will get you banned from the library.

CPL does have the ability to disallow Internet porn use, but is simply choosing to do nothing. Corrupt or Lazy? You pick.
Read more!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Porn does not belong in public libraries...

A public library in Manchester, New Hampshire recently kicked out a Registered Sex Offender (RSO) for trying to access Internet Pornography using the library's computer.

We at the Obscene Rights blog are proud of the stance the Manchester library has taken to ensure the safety of other library patrons. It's always good to see librarians at a Public Library using common sense instead of only trying to portray themselves as maverick "information protectors". Also, double kudos to Manchester for being able to think clearly on this issue while maintaining a more liberal policy for Internet use at the library. (ie - No filters. No severe penalties. Porn is still not allowed.)

As this article on the situation states:

The city library has a fairly liberal policy on Internet use. It does not forbid viewing racy photos. It states merely that "Viewing and printing access is provided for educational and research purposes" and "The library reserves the right to ask users to refrain from displaying computer images which are inappropriate for public viewing."

The CPL could learn a lot from that Internet Use Policy. Anyone should be allowed to do research, but watching anything on a computer screen in the public library is very much public viewing.

There are some things that are simply inappropriate for public viewing. (For reasons why this is inappropriate in public, read the rest of this blog - particularly Top Ten Reasons to Remove Porn From our Public Libraries and Some Ridiculous Pro-porn-in-the-library Arguments.)

We at ObsceneRights are staunch supporters of free speech and firmly against censorship. Letting someone know that watching hardcore Internet pornography at the Public Library is inappropriate and unacceptable and even disallowing it is not censorship - it's similar to requesting patrons to not use cell phones in the library. Instead, by not being allowed to do anything about it - those of us who oppose it (and are not allowed to voice that opposition) are at risk of being censored.

Read more!