Thursday, March 14, 2013

Finally, a Sensible Lawsuit Against a Librarian

The Annoyed Librarian hits the mark again, and I highly recommend following her.  My title of this post is a direct quote from her work.  Please read her work and the comments/links I have added below:

It’s always a little weird to see librarians acting all unlibrarianish. Last week there was the library employee in St. Louis who left a comment on this blog that notified the world of the library card holding status of a specific person named in a news article. So much for privacy!  [SafeLibraries:  Elided comment 16 March 2013.]

Now comes the result of a lawsuit against yet another public library in Missouri motivated by some pretty bizarre librarian behavior.
Someone at the Salem Public Library wanted to read about Native American religions, Wiccans, and other crazy topics that no God-fearing Salemite should ever want to know anything about, but she couldn’t get past the computer filters, which were apparently set to block “occult” sites.
The librarian wouldn’t remove the filters, so she sued. Finally, a sensible lawsuit against a librarian.  [SafeLibraries:  I completely agree.]
The ACLU victory statement has the best quote:
The resident had originally protested to library director Glenda Wofford about not being able to access websites about Native American religions and the Wiccan faith. While portions of the sites were unblocked, much remained censored. Wofford said she would only allow access to blocked sites if she felt patrons had a legitimate reason to view the content and added that she had an obligation to report people who wanted to view these sites to the authorities. The resident’s attempts to complain about the policy to the library board of trustees were brushed off.
To which I can only reply, wow.  [SafeLibraries:  And I reply that given the usual threats from the ACLU that libraries including school libraries should allow porn, once in a while ACLU takes the correct action, and this is one of those cases.]  That’s the strangest reply to a library patron I’ve heard of in a while. It’s not like the patron was trying to stream some Wiccan porn in the children’s section of the library. (If there is such a thing as Wiccan porn, I imagine it would involve a lot of slutty witch Halloween costumes.)
Outside of porn, which is blocked by law [SafeLibraries:  See how to legally remove legal porn from libraries here], libraries don’t usually block Internet searches. Most of them don’t even seem to want to block porn [SafeLibraries:  And that is a direct result of the ALA intentionally misleading American communities, according to the author of the Children's Internet Protection Act]. And here this librarian wanted to block religion sites.  [SafeLibraries:  Unlike hundreds of libraries intentionally accepting materials of a religious nature from the ALA, but having to do only with Islam.  So much for separation of church and state, right?]
To have the constrained sensibilities of the library director determine what everyone can research is a little bizarre. [SafeLibraries:  When it comes to Wicca, perhaps, but when it comes to ex-gays books or books having a Christian flavor, library directors regularly block such material.]  Add to that the total lie about having an obligation to report people to the authorities. [SafeLibraries:  Right.  The ALA even advises librarians not to call the police.]  Obviously that was meant as intimidation, and by librarian standards it’s pretty intimidating.
It’s no wonder the library lost the case, because the librarian’s behavior was pretty much indefensible. The library apparently knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on because they removed the filter months before the legal judgment came.
I was curious about where such a library might be found, and was unsurprised to discover Salem is a town of fewer than 5,000 people in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t imagine that particular sort of unlibrarianish behavior happening in St. Louis or Columbia.
Are there other libraries that block non-porn sites? Or where the librarians only let patrons view websites if they feel patrons have a “legitimate reason”?
I’d never heard of this sort of librarian reaction to non-porn Internet searches before. However, plenty of libraries in effect keep their patrons from reading books on certain topics the librarians don’t like by just not buying the books. The ALA might call it censorship, others might call it selection, but either way it’s done all the time.  [SafeLibraries:  And to illustrate the point, check out the dichotomy of librarians arguing about "intellectual freedom" here: "Anti-Gay Books and Your Library" and read the comments carefully.  Notice one librarian, Miss Ingrid, aka The Magpie Librarian, literally uses repeated personal attack (even repeatedly mocking the name of an author) and flat out censorship and record redaction to attempt to coerce other librarians to join the "struggle" by keeping books with which she disagrees out of libraries.] 
The website challenge by a librarian seems unlibrarianish to me, but maybe that kind of thing happens all the time to websites and books, and we just don’t find out about it.  [SafeLibraries:  Indeed a parallel is all the porn viewing in public libraries and related crimes that are simply not reported.]

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