August 1, 2011

Denver Post Editorial: Library No Place for Pornography

There is a time and a place for everything, and that old saw is particularly true for those who insist on watching Internet pornography.

We don’t think public libraries are appropriate places to view such material and were surprised to learn that Jefferson County Public Library allows it.

Library systems around the country have differing rules on the matter, with New York City allowing access to pornography and others, including Denver, blocking it.

To be clear, we have no issue with adults exercising their First Amendment right to view pornography in private at their own expense.

But it’s another matter entirely to allow people access to Internet pornography in a public place using public resources. The unfortunate truth is that even well-meaning attempts to shield such material from youngsters and those who’d rather not see it invariably go awry.

That was the gist of a 9News story this week quoting a mother who said she and her 5-year-old son came upon a teenager watching an X-rated movie on a Columbine Library computer in Jefferson County.

Not only did they see more than they wanted to as they walked by, the teenager apparently was fondling himself while watching the movie.

Carolyn Berry told a librarian about the spectacle and, eventually, the young man was forced to leave the facility.

Rebecca Winning, Jeffco library spokeswoman, said the teenager in question was violating several tenets of library policy. First, those under 18 are not allowed to watch porn. She conceded, however, there are numerous ways to get around that restriction.

Furthermore, the young man failed to shield his screen from other patrons. And it should go without saying that public masturbation is never acceptable in the library.

But Winning also acknowledged that the library board’s position is that patrons are allowed to access legally obtainable information — including porn — on library computers.

“We follow the law,” Winning told 9News.

However, there also is clear law and precedent allowing libraries to block porn on their computers.

Granted, such filters are imperfect and sometimes mistakenly deny access to non-porn sites. But patrons having difficulty viewing, say, a medical site about breast cancer could ask for assistance in getting beyond the filters. That’s what Denver does and it seems to work just fine.

To be sure, it’s complicated work to devise the right policies and use appropriate technology to block pornography in public libraries. But we think it’s worth the effort so libraries can be a comfortable place for everyone, including children, to visit.

Read more:Editorial: Library no place for pornography – The Denver Post


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