The Jolly Library

I’ve been debating whether or not to write about this, but it just hit Boing Boing, so that changed my decision.The Illinois General Assembly passed HB1727 on May 2.This bill, known as the Internet Screening Library Act, requires that public libraries throughout the state “must have a technology protection measure to prevent the display on a public computer of any visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors.” Okay, they want to protect children from the nasty things found online, so far so good.Here’s the second provision: “Allows a public library to disable the technology protection measure for an adult engaged in legitimate research or some other lawful purpose. Provides that the Internet safety policy must provide for the disablement of the technology protection measure by an employee of the public library upon the request of a minor to use the computer for legitimate research or some other lawful purpose if that minor is adequately supervised for the duration of the minor’s use of the computer by an individual who is 21 years of age or older.”That’s where things get a little tough. Everything under certain keywords will be disabled. Okay, no need to talk about the jollies at the library anyway, no problem, right? Well, the folks at Boing Boing have filtered this comment: what happens when someone is looking up health-related stuff, like breast enlargement or breast cancer? That person will have to ask the librarians to turn off the filter.A second problem: staff and funding. Anytime a kid wants to use the Internet, he or she will have to be sitting next to a staff member. If staff members are sitting watching kids on the web, who is checking out books or helping people with questions? Some libraries are worried that they won’t be given the proper amount of funding, so as to not perjure themselves, may have to shut off access to the Internet in the library.I believe the Internet is a critical aspect of the goal of the library and feel that, while this bill strives to protect library patrons, it ultimately winds up hurting library users more than helping them. It’s with the state senate now, so there’s still time to contact your representative.

6 Comments so far

  1. sten (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 9:56 am

    Easy answer- libraries should be running Linux and Firefox on computers meant for browsing the internet. A precious few (almost certainly poorly built) sites won’t work on that platform. Plus, its free, there are no viruses, no popups, no spyware, no adware. With the release of Ubuntu “Fiesty Fawn,” there are accounts popping up around the Internet of regular users installing and using Linux in less than an hour.

    This won’t help the problem of people actively looking for porn, or the occasional mis-click, but it goes a long way towards cleaning up users’ web experience.


  2. Brandi. (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 10:07 am

    While I agree that more libraries should be using Linux and Firefox, I don’t think the answer is as simple as you state it.

    Lots of medical sites, especially teaching ones, won’t work on the platform. Maybe they are poorly built, but that doesn’t mean the information on them isn’t viable.

    Also, I’m on a Mac and almost exclusively use Firefox. I’ve noticed, in the last few months especially, that there have been more and more popups while browsing in Firefox.


  3. Dave! (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 10:59 am

    Huh? Sten, what does running Linux and Firefox have to do with this at all? That doesn’t address the issue of libraries having to provide blocking measures or having to supervise minors if those measures are disabled for legitimate reasons. That’s not really a platform issue–this is a policy matter.


  4. Chicago 2016 (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

    Well, if anything, perhaps this will create more jobs for librarians. (Yes, I know this isn’t the point.)


  5. SafeLibraries.org (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

    “Well, the folks at Boing Boing have filtered this comment: what happens when someone is looking up health-related stuff, like breast enlargement or breast cancer? That person will have to ask the librarians to turn off the filter.” FALSE – even the ACLU now says filters are so effective they no longer filter out breast cancer and health related information. See ACLU v. Gonzales link on my group’s site at http://www.SafeLibraries.org/

    “Anytime a kid wants to use the Internet, he or she will have to be sitting next to a staff member. If staff members are sitting watching kids on the web, who is checking out books or helping people with questions?” FALSE – an adult is needed, as in parent or guardian. Librarians or staff will not have to shuffle around following children. It even a silly argument to make, but when no real arguments are available, the silly ones will suffice.


  6. Mike Jackiw (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 1:09 am

    Unfortunately SafeLibraries is again spreading misinformation to try to get this law passed. The two gentlemen have an agenda, along with a few others, to take media based hype and spread misinformation to support their cause.

    The law is very clear that yes, library staff MUST supervise any minor at a computer with the filter turned off:

    “(3) disablement of the technology protection measure by an employee of the public library upon the request of a minor to use the computer for legitimate research or some other lawful purpose if that minor is adequately supervised for the duration of the minor’s use of the computer by an individual who is 21 years of age or older.”

    He speaks of “silly arguments” but what this shows is a complete and utter lack of knowledge of how many youth actually come into a library without a parent or guardian to do research or look up personal and private information such as sex education, breast or genital cancer, incest, and other very personal but necessary and appropriate information. all items that are blocked and that to be unblocked would need a librarian or other library staff to sit with them.

    SafeLibraries also does not understand the technology at all. Filters block just as much as before and yet far less. Anyone that wants to view porn only needs to use slang, foreign terms, or just try a few times to get what they want. Yet health sites are still regularly blocked and definitely discussion forums.

    I know, I’ve worked with the technology and libraries for nearly 20 years and all I am seeing is a spread of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) instead of facts by those supporting filters in libraries.



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