Sunday, May 16, 2010

Librarian May Lose Job for Stopping Child from Viewing Porn in Salinas Public Library

You can't make this stuff up.  A librarian in the Salinas Public Library may lose her job for stopping a 10 year old boy from viewing pornography on the library's unfiltered computers.  See "10-Year-Old Caught Surfing Porn At Library; Librarian Reprimanded For Reaction," by Action News 8, KSBW-TV, 14 May 2010.

Notice the library director spouting the usual misleading statements:

Library director Elizabeth Martinez said patrons have right to information and the filters would block out more than just the bad stuff.

"That's part of the complexity of the issue.  (If) you want to do research on a certain body part you might not get those sites because it blocks the whole thing.  A computer can't think," Martinez said.

How misleading.  The US Supreme Court already asked and answered that overblocking concern in US v. American Library Association.  All you do is ask for the filter to be temporarily disabled.  Yet the library director misleads the community by reraising the issue as if it were new and as if no solution were available.

However, notice people are starting to get wise to library propaganda.  Most encouragingly, it was the threatened librarian herself who spoke up:

But [librarian Elizabeth] McKeighen said filters have advanced in recent years.

"This is an issue.  It happens all the time, every day.  And while the solution is very challenging, to ignore the problem is only going to exacerbate it and make it worse," she said.

Indeed, filters have advanced so much even the ACLU now argues filters are 95% effective and no longer block health-related information.  The library director's not mentioning this is another way she is misleading the community.

I hereby request librarian Elizabeth McKeighen be publicly recognized for her common sense, and the community should consider using Internet filters, especially where library director Elizabeth Martinez misleads the public so seriously, leaving children open to harm.  If the library director continues to obfuscate, remove her.

Hat tip: "Librarian Reprimanded For Reaction," by Bibliofuture, LISNews, 14 May 2010.

Let me add that this story reminds me of the

This is directly relevant:

"On First Amendment grounds, library officials refused to intervene when patrons used library Internet stations to display sexually explicit material."  "[T]he administration's laissez-faire attitude led to overt acts of harassment, such as catcalls, masturbation, physical threats and stalking by patrons."  "[T]he issue of whether a library can put restrictions on its patrons' choice of Internet material has largely been rendered moot by the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision in U.S. v. [ALA:]  A library's need to exercise judgment in making collection decisions depends on its traditional role in identifying suitable and worthwhile material; it is no less entitled to play that role when it collects material from the Internet than when it collects material from any other source."  "[T]he administration was so loath to interfere with the viewing choices of its patrons that it chastised a security guard for telling a 6-year-old boy that he shouldn't be looking at pornography."  "[T]he library fell under occupation by about 25 'sex addicts' who came in every day to use the terminals, deliberately tried to embarrass and intimidate the staff, lured children into viewing pornography and made violent threats. "[Librarians were] chastise[d] by the administration 'for daring to think that they had rights in this area.'"  "The pornography that came into the librarians' workplace via the internet created a hostile environment for their work because they were women. This is sex-based abuse, not protected freedom."

Source: "No Smut At Work, Please," by Gary Young and Staff Reporter, The National Law Journal, 15 September 2003.

Elizabeth McKeighen was daring to think.  Elizabeth Martinez is misleading the community so it doesn't think.  See the difference?  Is that acceptable to Salinas, CA, residents?  Please comment below.



  1. I have directed the librarian to this blog so that she can see that she has some supporters, thanks!

  2. Hello. I am Elizabeth McKeighen, the librarian in this story, and I am deeply grateful for your words and your support. I still have a job. We shall see what happens next.

  3. Elizabeth McKeighen, thank you so much for writing here.

    I truly admire you for speaking out and using common sense. Many librarians are afraid to do so, and it's no wonder considering the consequences.

    I can tell you media stories emphasizing librarians standing up to library management are few and far between. I do not know the exact reasons for this, but I'll suppose it is fear of speaking out. Ironic. The tide is turning, however, as people are starting to realize communities may use legal means to protect themselves in public libraries by the simple means of using Internet filters.

    If I may assist you and any member of your community in any way, please let me know. For just one example, I will protect the identity of any librarian who may choose to write an anonymous guest blog post that I will post here.

    Thanks again for writing, and please consider subscribing to my blog. If I finish what I am writing right now, it should be a block buster.

  4. I am a former Salinas librarian. I am also a citizen. I used to work with Elizabeth, and I greatly admire her courage in bringing this issue to the forefront. I am not in favor of filtering adult computers in the library. I am in favor of filtering in the children's department. I believe that a young person, who has permission from their parent or guardian, should be allowed to access information on an adult computer.

    The library has a policy regarding inappropriate viewing, and I believe that most of Salinas' librarians do their best to patrol the public access computers, in a way which does not infringe on the privacy of the patron-- as much as that is reasonably possible.

  5. Thanks for writing, madamswalt, and for supporting Elizabeth.

    Know that policies on inappropriate viewing never stops inappropriate viewing--only filters do.

    Listen, here's a librarian who opposed filters because such opposition was drilled into her head, then after she was forced to use filters, she found they worked well:

    On Tue, May 11, 2010 at 4:22 PM, Robin Boulton‪ ‬wrote to the ALA's LITA distribution list:

    After strenuously resisting filtering for lo these many years we were finally forced to adopt it in the interest of saving staff time which had been taken up reporting and disciplining patrons for porn, etc. We decided to try OpenDNS since it's free, and we have stuck with it as it seems to do a good job. We did have a few complaints in the first week that certain pages were not available; I whitelisted some sites and gently explained to some other patrons that pictures of scantily clad young ladies offering sexual services did not meet our internet policy standards. Overall we're pretty happy with it although with the caveat, as with all filtering systems, that we don't know what we're not getting.

    Robin Boulton
    IT Manager
    St Charles Public Library
    St Charles, IL 60174

  6. I suppose each community must decide for itself what is permissible. I hope I can avoid living and working in a community that applies filters to adult public access computers. I have not come of my opinion by virtue of the dictates of the ALA. I have held this position since my teen years, based on my own interpretation of the rights afforded me as a citizen.

  7. Communities cannot decide if they don't even know that there is an issue. Most parents think that dropping their kids off at the library while they go to the grocery is perfectly safe and that nothing like what happened to Elizabeth two weeks ago (and what happens to library staff all the time, only with adults, not a child) could happen.

    If they knew, they'd demand change, and see right through the bogus "freedom of speech" whinge that librarians constantly intone like it's some sort of talisman against filtering. If people pushed the second amendment as far as they push the first, toddlers would be required to carry guns in their diapers. It's ridiculous to try and stretch the First so far as to say that a patron has the right to watch patently sexually explicit and offensive material in a public space that is frequented by children. If you want to watch that garbage in your own home, go right ahead, and if you don't have a computer with broadband, well...too bad. It's not the taxpayers' responsibility to support your loathsome habits.

    If I had been the one that stumbled across that young lad watching porn on a public computer in a children's library, I might not have poked him, but he'd have wished I had, because every single person in the library would have known what he was doing. He would have cried, all right, in embarrassment.

    And he would have deserved it, but I can guarantee that the SPL PTBs would have found fault with Elizabeth no matter what she did and snarky librarians on librarian forums would still be saying that "perhaps she's in the wrong profession." Some people just don't get it, and ideology is a very dark glass through which to see clearly.

  8. Parents of children using SPL are supposed to be aware of the policies of the library when they sign the permission slip for their child to get a library card. Unfortunately, in the zeal of giving every child a library card, I'm not sure every parent has actually signed that form, or is aware of the policies of the library.

    It is my opinion, no responsible parent drops their pre-teen child off at a library, unattended. I say this as the mother of 4 children-- who always went to the library with my sons. Parents must ultimately be responsible for what their children view in the library. Librarians are in a delicate position of trying to balance information needs and wants and protecting children. The balance should tip in favor of protecting the children, but it should not be necessary to completely trample the rights of every other patron to do so.

    It has been my experience that some librarians rather loosely define items they don't like as "pornography." I had a fellow librarian throw a fit about a group of boys looking at pornography in the library-- but I looked at the website and it was of a woman in a bikini sitting on a sports car. The other librarian meant well, but her screeching and yanking the mouse out of the hand of a young man was probably not the right way to handle this situation. I calmly told the boys that it probably was not a good idea to look at those pictures in the library because there were other people who might be offended by the pictures (and that there were much younger patrons about) and I suggested some other sites the boys could go to. They giggled a bit, but then closed that browser and started looking at more children's library-friendly fare. I kept an eye on them, and there were no repeat offenses-- that day, anyway.

    As I have said before, I believe filtering might be appropriate for the children's computers-- but I hope that the decisions about what is appropriate are made by librarians, parents and community members-- working together to develop a community standard that is both fair, diverse and reasonable-- as much as that is possible. Both sides in this debate will have to weigh freedom of speech with the desire to protect children. Not everyone will be happy-- but perhaps some good can come of the community coming together.

    I hope I haven't been to given to snark on this blog-- and goodness knows it was tempting to respond to the gun-toting babies comment. *smile*

  9. Jenn, well said, and thank you.

    Madamswalt, well said, and feel free to write anything you wish on this blog, any way you wish.

  10. No, the snark comment was definitely not directed towards you!

  11. One thing I do ABSOLUTELY agree with is that ultimately, it is the parent's responsibility, not the libraries. I've had parents complain that they see children literally abandoned at the library all day...sigh. I am not a parent but I just can't see myself doing that.

  12. Thanks, Elizabeth, I absolutely agree. I may be SafeLibraries, but parents or guardians should not be using libraries as day care facilities.

    There are cases, however, where a parent or guardian cannot be on guard every single minute. Like the case of the grandmother caring for 2 toddlers and an 8 year old in a library. The 8 year old went to the bathroom alone because the grandmother was watching the toddlers. No problem, right?

    Actually, that would have been no problem in a library that had Internet filters. This particular library refused to install filters because the ALA advises not to. Result? The girl has severely attacked and left for dead stuffed behind the toilet by someone the library knew or should have known would have offended in this fashion and who viewed unfiltered p#rn in that library. And the result of that? The library finally installed filters.

    So watching children is necessary in a public library, but kids can't be watched 100% of the time and the library may have an obligation not to make the library attractive to child molesters by having unfiltered Internet access.

  13. Thank you Elizabeth, You did do the Right thing! The Viewing of Porn in a public place should be on the same law as nudity in a public place. I assume people don't come into a library Naked, why should a person be able to view Porn in a public place? any lawyers out there have an answer?

  14. Tmiester, thanks for writing. Read US v. ALA to see that p@rn may be legally excluded from public libraries. That there are libraries relying on ALA diktat to sidestep US v. ALA is something communities need to know.

  15. And thanks to you also, Tmeister. I appreciate the support.

  16. People should know there are a number of sources linking to this blog post:

    "Nugget Net Newsline"

    "Kjos Ministries"

    "Laura the Crazy Mama"

    "Welcome to the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library"

    And a number of Internet news aggregators from around the world.

  17. As a parent, thank you to Elizabeth!! I want THIS kind of librarian!

  18. Thanks, Kirsten, and folks, Elizabeth has a lot of detail about this on her blog. See, for starters, My Story with the Salinas Public Library, Part I, dated 12 June 2011.

  19. too many libraries allow the porn on the computers. for shame. clean this up quickly


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