MD Libraries Rethink Unrestricted Web

Anonymous Patron writes "Washington Post: The Howard County library system is reviewing its highly unusual procedure of allowing its patrons unfettered access to the Internet. In recent years, most public library systems in Maryland have installed Internet filtering programs that block access to Web sites containing obscene or pornographic material. Howard officials are tracking usage of the computers to see whether and how often patrons are accessing objectionable sites, said Charles J. Broida, a trustee who also serves a counsel to the library system. The tracking method does not reveal the identities of patrons, but it does show what they're viewing."

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can't staff handle this?

Why can't library staff handle this? I know in very large systems where there are more machines than staff (a lot more, I mean) you can't afford to have people roaming around every second.But I cannot imagine that a grown person cannot tell the difference between porn and something that is provocative, artistic or scientific.I could never get my head around this. Help?

Re:can't staff handle this?

I agree on the adult stations. The article points out that one neighboring county does filter just childrens while another filters all stations. No mention of which direction Howard County is pointing.

It was kind of funny that the article described unfettered access as 'highly unusual'. Did my side win an argument and nobody say anything?

Re:can't staff handle this?

"Your side"--presumably the side that believes that filters actually work, despite all evidence to the contrary?

Remember CIPA? While SCOTUS gutted the law to some extent, it did uphold it; for libraries with e-rate, "initially filtered" is the law of the land.

So, if that's winning, you won.

Re:can't staff handle this?

From reading the article it appears that every other County system in the State has some form of filtering on their internet computers.

It also states that Howard County doesn't receive the federal funds that require CIPA filtering. This doesn't surprise me as Howard is one of the richer counties in MD.

Also, monitoring computers is full-time job. Who are you going to get to do it?

Re:can't staff handle this?

I was going to propose that no one monitor anything. Do it on a complaint basis or an "I happened to notice" basis.

Re:can't staff handle this?

Okay, I misunderstood. :-)

That is how we handle it in the libraries I've worked in.

Re:can't staff handle this?

I do remember CIPA but 1. I don't know exactly what percentage of libraries filter at this point and 2. to me saying 'highly unusual' spins the story, if only just a little bit.

If you define 'work' as in 'imperfect but functional' as opposed to 'absolutely stops all porn while not preventing any useful (but probably adult in nature) sites from being accessed', then yes that's my side. The rational side. ;)

Re:can't staff handle this?

But I cannot imagine that a grown person cannot tell the difference between porn and something that is provocative, artistic or scientific.

Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off!

If that's the case, then you really need to get out more.

Whether or not something is pornographic, or objectionable, if you will, is entirely subjective. As a U.S. Supreme Court justice said: One man's vulgarity is another man's lyric.

Not to mention that in the mind of the bivariate typologist, everything is Either/Or, but nothing can possibly be in a third category; such as: both; or neither.

That's the short answer. I can post the longer one if you like.

Re:can't staff handle this?

You didn't win, then. Filters are still too imperfect to be functional, and they are also subject to abuse to too high a degree.

Re:can't staff handle this?

Fang,Have you ever seen actual Internet porn? It's not hard to tell the difference between it and a Renior nude or even a Mapplethorpe nude.

Re:can't staff handle this?

Yes, I have. Are you aware that Michaelangelo's David has been challenged on a few occasions as obscene, and Where's Waldo was challenged as pornographic?

How would compare them to "internet" porn?

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