The Hartford Public Library had its ears closed to complaints from librarians for so long that the librarians were forced to go public. I have already blogged about this at "Hartford Librarians Should Sue to Rid ALA Influence."
Now along comes the media, the police chief, and the mayor, and it appears Hartford citizens are finally being heard. Hartford Hears a Who!
But the library director is still misleading the public, ever so politely though. Read this letter I have written to governmental members and the media, among others:
Dear Mayor Perez and Other Hartford Governmental Leaders,
There is no First Amendment right to p()rnography in the public library. Any librarian saying there is is either seriously mistaken or is intentionally misleading. The library director at Hartford Public Library defends viewing p()rnography as a First Amendment right. See "Librarian Defends Viewing P()rn at Library; Chief Librarian Cites First Amendment Right," by WFSB.com Channel 3 Eyewitness News, May 23, 2008. [ http://www.wfsb.com/news/16379317/detail.html ] Nevermind that the library is rife with criminal activity including rape, "libraries across the country support First Amendment rights," says Chief Librarian Louise Blalock.
Yes, they do, but there is no First Amendment right to access p()rnography in public libraries. Yet you hear it in library after library, news story after news story, as if it were true. For example, the library director in Santa Cruz, CA, says, "CIPA only applies to adolescents. Adult men can continue using a public library with internet filters to view p()rnography. CIPA does nothing to address that." [ http://talkwisdom.blogspot.com/2008/05/refusing-to-protect-children.html ]
Congratulations to Dennis House of WFSB.com Channel 3 Eyewitness News for being one of the few reporters not taken in by ALA propaganda. The same goes for the Hartford Courant editorial board [ http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-library.artmay30,0,4120003.story ]. But no matter how successful are the propaganda efforts to claim p()rnography in public libraries is a First Amendment right, that is simple not true. It is false.
P()rnography may be excluded by applying existing law. Likely the library was created by some legal instrument that specified the uses for the library, and p()rngraphy was likely not part of that list, either explicitly or implicitly. If librarians are claiming the First Amendment allows p()rnography and they act on that claim, they are not only wrong, but that are acting outside of the law that created the library. To that extent, the government has every right and duty to step in to ensure the library is complying with the law. Yes, a library is autonomous, but not to defy the law.
Modern Internet filtering software properly deployed and maintained is the very best means for keeping p()rnography out of the library. That is why it is opposed so forcefully. It is no coincidence that librarians claiming the First Amendment right to p()rnography in public libraries claim that Internet filters 1) don't work, 2) are too restrictive, 3) are too broad, 4) are too expensive, 5) are too hard to maintain, 6) never work perfectly, 7) provide a "false sense of security," and 8) are no substitute for parental supervision. Even the ACLU admits filters are 95% effective and no longer block out health-related web sites. [ACLU v. Gonzales - http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/07D0346P.pdf ]
There is a common misconception that a library is an open public forum. Your library's Internet policy [ http://www.hplct.org/policies/internet_policy.shtml ]crystallizes that as "The Library is a forum for all points of view." Public libraries are not open public fora where anything goes. Internet filters may be used to extend existing book collection policies and practices over the Internet. Filters will never be perfect, so a simple request to a librarian will temporarily bypass the filter, no questions asked--although that use must be for a bona fide purpose. Everything in this paragraph comes from US v. ALA, the US Supreme Court case where the ALA lost on the very same issues the Hartford Public Library is raising. [ US v. ALA - http://laws.findlaw.com/us/539/194.html ]. You must read US v. ALA. US v. ALA will be your guide to the issues already asked and answered but that your library director attempts to resurrect as if the US Supreme Court has not already addressed the issues. If there is one take away from this email, it is that you should read US v. ALA carefully.
The library's efforts to reraise the same issues is merely a desperate attempt to nullify US v. ALA in Hartford. Just remember, "The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree." Your media reveals the public agrees. The Hartford Public Library does not agree. Indeed the library claims to follow the ALA's "Library Bill of Rights" that essentially claims it is "age" discrimination to keep children from s()exually inappropriate material [ http://www.hplct.org/policies/internet_policy.shtml ]. Whom should you believe?
Now you have an unusual advantage. Your media is apparently not in the hip pocket of the ALA. That is rare and you should take advantage of that. Notice how the library attacked the media as, what was it, taking a cheap shot? A cheap shot at what? At disclosing how the law is being violated by allowing unlimited p()rnography into the library and all the crime that is attracted in as a result? Do you really want to head in the direction of the Minneapolis Public Library? See Adamson v. Minneapolis Public Library [ http://www.safelibraries.org/adamson/ ], and especially the WCCO investigative reports dated May 10, 2000 [ http://web.mac.com/safelibraries/Adamson/MediaReports.html ]. That library was overrun with criminality for years despite public outcry by the librarians, sound familiar? The library also had an overlord who also applied ALA diktat instead of following the law. Result? The EEOC found the library guilty of s()xual harassment and the resultant civil case resulted in a $435,000 settlement.
Looking now at the library director's response [ http://www.courant.com/community/news/hfd/hc-blalockstatement,0,5929826.story ], we see a perfect example of someone who knows how to mislead people so as to maintain the ALA's control through its local acolyte over the local community. She claims the "safety and well-being of all of our customers is a top priority," and "the Hartford Public Library has quickly moved to address any and all issues concerning security in and around our building," but otherwise says absolutely nothing of substance. Where is an admission of what went wrong? You cannot fix a problem until you admit you have one. Where is an admission that p()rnography in the public library is not a First Amendment right?
Where is an admission that the Internet policy is in error when it says, "As with library materials, access to the Internet is the responsibility of the individual, or for children, the parent or guardian." No, the library is required to act within the law and not allow the "anything goes" attitude implied in that policy. As with library materials that pass through a selection process, and are not the responsibility of various individuals, so should Internet content be selected, and US v. ALA says this explicitly and that Internet filters may be used to do this. Nothing Dennis House and The Courant have disclosed has been addressed concretely--only very polite and generalized language is used. It's a well-written letter that means nothing will be done to solve the problem other than moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. A change to the Internet policy to bring it in compliance with the law and the community is definitely needed.
Please consider the information and references I have provided. You have the power to require the library to act lawfully within its enabling legal document. Internet filters are the best means for doing so, and even the ACLU, formerly with the ALA in attempting to overturn the Children's Internet Protection Act, now says filters are 95% effective and no longer block health-related information. I'll bet the crime rate in the library will drop dramatically once that powerful p()rn magnet is removed from the premises.
Here are links to numerous stories on this topic: http://del.icio.us/plan2succeed/HartfordCT and this includes my previous blog entitled, "Hartford Librarians Should Sue to Rid ALA Influence" at http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2008/05/hartford-librarians-should-sue-to-rid.html .
Here are actual quotes from US v. ALA for those who do not have the time to read the whole case:
"Because public libraries' use of Internet filtering software does not violate their patrons' First Amendment rights, CIPA does not induce libraries to violate the Constitution...."
"Thus, the public forum principles on which the District Court relied are out of place in the context of this case. Internet access in public libraries is neither a 'traditional' nor a 'designated' public forum."
"Internet terminals are not acquired by a library in order to create a public forum for Web publishers to express themselves. Rather, a library provides such access for the same reasons it offers other library resources: to facilitate research, learning, and recreational pursuits by furnishing materials of requisite and appropriate quality. The fact that a library reviews and affirmatively chooses to acquire every book in its collection, but does not review every Web site that it makes available, is not a constitutionally relevant distinction. The decisions by most libraries to exclude p()rnography from their print collections are not subjected to heightened scrutiny; it would make little sense to treat libraries' judgments to block online p()rnography any differently. Moreover, because of the vast quantity of material on the Internet and the rapid pace at which it changes, libraries cannot possibly segregate, item by item, all the Internet material that is appropriate for inclusion from all that is not. While a library could limit its Internet collection to just those sites it found worthwhile, it could do so only at the cost of excluding an enormous amount of valuable information that it lacks the capacity to review. Given that tradeoff, it is entirely reasonable for public libraries to reject that approach and instead exclude certain categories of content, without making individualized judgments that everything made available has requisite and appropriate quality."
"Concerns over filtering software's tendency to erroneously 'overblock' access to constitutionally protected speech that falls outside the categories software users intend to block are dispelled by the ease with which patrons may have the filtering software disabled."
"Especially because public libraries have traditionally excluded p()rnographic material from their other collections, Congress could reasonably impose a parallel limitation on its Internet assistance programs. As the use of filtering software helps to carry out these programs, it is a permissible condition under Rust."
"Justice Kennedy concluded that if, as the Government represents, a librarian will unblock filtered material or disable the Internet software filter without significant delay on an adult user's request, there is little to this case. There are substantial Government interests at stake here: The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree. Given this interest, and the failure to show that adult library users' access to the material is burdened in any significant degree, the statute is not unconstitutional on its face."
"The statute's restrictions satisfy these constitutional demands. Its objectives--of restricting access to obscenity, child p()rnography, and material that is comparably harmful to minors--are 'legitimate,' and indeed often 'compelling.'"
"No clearly superior or better fitting alternative to Internet software filters has been presented."
"The District Court viewed unblocking and disabling as inadequate because some patrons may be too embarrassed to request them. 201 F. Supp. 2d, at 411. But the Constitution does not guarantee the right to acquire information at a public library without any risk of embarrassment."