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Grand jury calls for pornography filters on library computers



The Sonoma County grand jury again has addressed what it sees as problems of access to pornography in public libraries, calling for filters to be installed on computers in the children’s section while their effectiveness is gauged.

Byron Hendrix of Santa Rosa views escort sites Friday at a computer at the Sonoma County Public Library in downtown Santa Rosa in 2009. (PD file)

Pornography filters are “still an important issue that needs to be dealt with. It is a fact that minors may be exposed to pornographic images of a shocking and offensive nature,” the grand jury wrote in the report, released Wednesday afternoon.

The library’s reluctance, however, has been that filters are not 100 percent effective, and some offensive material will still get through while legitimate material is blocked.

“Someone who has breast cancer who wants to research treatment can’t get it because the filter prevents it, and it may not filter out other things that may be offensive,” said Melissa Kelley, vice chairwoman of the Sonoma County Library Commission.

There are also First Amendment issues, said Margaret Lynch, commission chairwoman.

“We do have people who are actively reviewing how we can do this. It is an issue of the American Library Association, we are not the only library to deal with it,” Lynch said. “It is trying to strike that balance.”

The grand jury last year recommended the Central Library move the public access computers to a side wall and install pornography filters.

This year’s grand jury also believes that the filters may be more effective than the library commission believes, filtering 85 percent of the objectional material and blocking 15 percent of the legitimate material.

“With filters installed, any adult may, by simply asking a librarian, turn off the filters. No First Amendment rights are infringed upon and our children have been afforded a safer Library experience,” the grand jury wrote.

Rick Rascoe, a grand jury member who oversaw the library investigation, said the Central Library was singled out because that is where the complaints have been.

It is also the Central Library staff that decided against the filters, said Cal Kimes, grand jury foreman.

Instead of putting filters on all computers, as previous grand juries have done, the 2010 grand jury recommends installing the filters on the computers in the children’s section, appointing a committee to research the effectiveness and then reporting back to next year’s grand jury.

“It is a big change and we thought it was prudent that we start small, put it on the children’s department computers first to see if they can handle it,” Rascoe said.

Kelley said one of the steps the Central Library has taken is the use of privacy screens that can placed over the computer monitor to shield the view of people walking by.

“If there is problem, we have privacy screens and the librarians have the authority to ask them to use these screens,” said Melissa Kelley, vice chairwoman of the commission. “Generally when we call it to the person’s attention that it is not appropriate, for the most part they choose to stop the activity.”

Kelley said that complaints have dropped sharply since the new policy took effect.

She also said that there has not been a complaint regarding the computers in the children’s section of the library.
“I consider the Central Library my home library, I am there a lot,” Kelley said. “I am sure it would have been brought to my attention.”

Lynch said the grand jury’s recommendations will be discussed at the library commission’s July 12 meeting.
“This has come up every year; it is not an easy thing to deal with,” Lynch said. “There is a persistent dissatisfaction. It is not the library is cavalier, but there are some limitations on what we can do.”

11 Responses to “Grand jury calls for pornography filters on library computers”

  1. Don G. Hared says:

    Kids watch hundreds of murders, shooting, simulated sex and adult situations every week on TV. If my kid was looking at porn, I wouldn’t stop him. I’d answer his questions, if any. Forbid something and kids will find a way to get around it. Porn essentially would be boring to a kid. He’s ease his or her curiosity and then move on to something more interesting. Morals! Ha. You’re hypocrites. You terminal Christians and other over-moralizers “doing it for the kids” are the ones who for years allowed those poor blank slate minds to be indoctrinated by the biggest corrupter of all: TV. Freedom means not being judged by the likes of you.

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  2. Mike says:

    It is simple. Downscale county libraries. Clean them up so they aren’t homeless shelters and adult day care centers and stop whining about the poor librarians wages. They make good money and have a pension. It is a lot more than many people have right now.

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  3. Montag Fortz says:

    The silliest part of this new witch hunt is that the Grand Jury recommends filters on the children’s computers, but there have been no complaints about porn on these machines. What sense does this make? The argument that web sites should be censored because the library doesn’t buy “everything” is bogus. I can show you plenty of magazines, books, and videos that were acquired without any selection decisions. I’m sure many of the bluenoses out there would find some of them offensive. The web works most effectively when left alone. In fact, it almost mystically erases all attempts to censor it. Filtering software is always way behind the game. We want our libraries to be “safe” places for children, but reading and viewing are, by their nature, dangerous. If someone is offended by what they find on a library computer, sue the county. Hey, you might win; others have!

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  4. Noah says:

    @normal person: If only what you say were true! One caveat, though. Just because you have faith in your neighbor or would help him if he needed it, does not make you a communist. It does, in view of modern culture, make you an apparent progressive.

    In my youth, we used to call such ideas “basic Christian values.” That’s what “normal people” used to do.

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  5. Linda Carnes says:

    The Grand Jury is correct that filtering software is not longer based on keywords. The argument that breast cancer and chicken breast recipes will be filtered is simply outdated. Specific websites are filtered based on their content.
    Pornography is not Playboy pictures: naked women in come hither poses. It is showing people engaged in sexual activity often in degrading, sometimes violent situations. Snuff sites are porn, for example.
    Librarians, and I am one in a different area, will not buy the materials that are easily found on the web. Many libraries use modern filtering software, which they turn off on request.
    The privacy screens only block a view from the side, not a straight on view. Stand behind the user, and you see the screen plainly.

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  6. Normal Person says:

    The Progressive Communists have taken over the libraries, as well as the schools, Congress, the mainstream media and the White House, so the library is no longer a safe place to send our children.

    It’s that simple.

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  7. Lyn says:

    It’s an issue, Beef King, because librarians have concocted a distinction that while it’s okay for them not to stock library shelves with “inappropriate” books and magazines, it’s not okay to block similarly inappropriate web sites.

    The latter policy, you see, would violate free speech rights. Yep, it makes little sense and, of course, it denies the public the right to decide what materials are provided in the libraries they pay for.

    My wife used to volunteer in a library (not Sonoma County)in which hardcore pornography was occasionally left for all to see on the screen by previous “patrons.”

    The result? Some parents stop thinking of the library as a safe place for kids to explore on their own.

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  8. Beef King says:

    Can anyone explain why our Grand Jury must intervene on behalf of children who visit the library?
    What is wrong with the library commission that this is necessary?
    Am I the only one who wonders why this is even an issue?

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  9. Noah says:

    The article says, It is a fact that minors may be exposed to pornographic images of a shocking and offensive nature.”

    Respondents are looking for ways for this shock never to reach sensitive eyes. I have another approach. What if we stopped teaching ourselves that the human body is shocking, morally dissolute, and that sex is natural? It is easy, when you are not trying to hide everything from a child, to guide them into age-appropriate behaviors. It is impossible when you brand it with such venomous hatred and fear. Ask any boy who ever hid a Playboy magazine under his mattress.

    I don’t buy the framing; that we have to hide this from everyone at all costs. How much of ourselves can we suppress? How fast can we get back to the 17th century?

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  10. Beef King says:

    From Ms. Kelly…“Generally when we call it to the person’s attention that it is not appropriate, for the most part they choose to stop the activity.”

    What does this really mean? What activity is she referencing? Unfortunately, I think I know what she is talking about. And there are CHILDREN in the area!!!
    Why are children being used as guinea pigs in a behavior modification experiment? Is the library commission a bunch of whackos?

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  11. Denise says:

    I am a middle aged women whom believes that we must protect our moral not only for our children but for our future of the United State of America. Be careful little eyes what you see. If a women with breast cancer wants to research breast go to a doctor’s office or a friends computer.

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