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Library Issues

Public computers and Porn

I hesitate to use the word “porn” in a blog post, cause that guarantees I’ll be getting bizarre google referrals forever, but in this case, it’s warranted.

Here’s the situation…we’ve got 4 publically available computers in the reference area (we’ve got more computers than that, but the rest require a login/pwd combo from a student/faculty/staff member of the university). Of course, we’re having a bit of porn problem, which one would expect on public use PCs. The library is located in a semi-urban area, within walking distance of all of downtown Chattanooga, and as such as become a haven for members of our homeless population. This in and of itself isn’t a big deal…a number of the homeless are actually using our library for needed purposes (finding TN laws relating to Social Security for example). But some are coming into the library, parking on the 4 public computers for 8-10 hours a day, and surfing for porn.

Again, this is nothing new…any urban library has been dealing with these things for years. Unfortunately, it appears that we’ve never really had an effective policy that was uniformly enforced, and as such have had difficulty dealing with the issue.

And the issue really comes down to patron vs patron problems. The homeless are our patrons. But we’ve gotten more complaints about this issue than any other having to do with the library.

How do we balance the rights of one group of patrons to access material that another group finds offensive? This can be expanded to other issues…there was a court case regarding a patron at a library in Hawaii that involved him surfing to a gay travel site…no nudity, no porn…just a gay travel site that had two guys in swimming trunks on the front page. Another patron complained, and I can SO see that happening here. The slope is very slippery.

So what say you, Interweb? Any thoughts on appropriate controls/policies? What about patron vs patron rights? This is especially hard, since there’s a distinct disconnect between my personal feelings and what I might suggest to the library.

2 replies on “Public computers and Porn”

The Bicentennial Library has began running the homeless off. I spent 6 months homeless myself and it posses a real problem to find a place to go because the few that make it hard and surf for things like porn. Really, if they want porn that bad they need to save every penny they get and buy it. I am not saying this out of disrespect but they should be more considerate of those around them. However, libraries should not ban all homeless just monitor what everyone (because it is not just the homeless looking at the porn) is surfing.

Can’t they just install some software to block out the porn or put the filters in, and post a sign that this is being done. If they are looking at sites which are not blocked you can at the end of the day check the sites log and block those out to.

gl

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