Sunday, April 10, 2011

Librarians are Guardians of a Trust, by Jo Ellen Ringer, Notus Public Library Director and Guest Writer

Librarians are Guardians of a Trust
Jo Ellen Ringer
Library Director, Notus Public Library, Notus, ID
8 April 2011

In rural communities like the one I serve, all computers are usually in one spot because of the amount of electric wires needed.  So the person viewing porn on one computer is sitting next to a child playing a game or doing homework on the next computer.  It is very easy for that child to view what the adult is viewing.

How the Nampa, ID, library handled that was to put privacy screens on their computers.  Rural libraries do not have the money, nor often the desire to do so.  If computers are in the middle of the library, people are less likely to pursue questionable topics on the Internet, especially since other library users are walking by.

The Notus, ID, library uses an online filter that blocks violent, racist and pornographic sites.  I did not think that those extra categories were necessary but it came with the filter.  Then I discovered, through teens complaining the Internet wasn't "working," that they were trying to access brutal gang fights and decapitation of dogs.  I was sickened.  I explained we had a filter to block online violence so they would have to go elsewhere to access these videos.

Another rural librarian had a convicted felon in her library using the computer.  She decided to walk by his computer several times and saw that he was studying information on arson.  He had formerly fire bombed a public building in her town.  She made the decision to report him to the authorities.  She brought up this issue in a librarians meeting and asked what others would have done.  The consensus was they would not have reported him.

What would the result of her silence been?  Another fire bomb with perhaps human deaths this time.  We are guardians of a trust that few public workers have.  That librarian did honor the trust of her community.

There are two issues here: "proper" (based on local standards, not ALA standards) expenditure of public tax dollars in our communities, and using the trust given to librarians in wise ways.  Education and information are the twin missions of any library.  Are we meeting those goals?  Pornography, violence, bomb-making are not for the public good, nor do most taxpayers wish to support this with their taxes.

I would add a third mission for rural libraries, caring for the children.  Latchkey kids are seen in all rural libraries after school.  We watch over them until parents get home from work.  In the summer it becomes a full-time job for rural libraries.  Parents are trusting us.  Let's be worthy of that.

Parents presume we are keeping their children safe and occupied in educational activities.  No parent assumes that "educational" means access to porn and violence for violence's sake.  To be clear, I am not speaking of works that portray the horrors of war or racism: books or films on war or genocide.  Deadly gang fight videos do not qualify as "educational" in my opinion, nor in the opinion of the community I serve.  Let's earn the trust our communities have invested in us.

Jo Ellen Ringer, Notus Public Library Director

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Libraries are not well served by blind adherence to the anything-goes attitude of the American Library Association [ALA].  And the ALA will not publish, let alone entertain, the works of conservative librarians.  Scott Savage comes to mind.  Therefore, SafeLibraries has presented the above excellent guest blog post by Jo Ellen Ringer.  She is the library director for the Notus Public Library in Notus, ID, where she has been since 2003.  All graphics and hyperlinks were obtained and inserted by SafeLibraries.  All guest bloggers are welcome.

By the way, legal pornography may be legally removed from public libraries, privacy screens are demonstrably ineffective, and even rearranging furniture does little to stop porn viewing in public libraries.

Note that Jo Ellen Ringer has appeared prominently in one of my blog posts on the Idaho Public Libraries Internet Filter Act, specifically this one:

© 2011 Jo Ellen Ringer; published by SafeLibraries with permission.



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