Library's clever answer to network filtering

Dana sez, "Saw this in the San Clemente, Ca library. I was performing my magic show and took this poor pic on my Treo. The 'unfiltered' side faces the reference desk so the librarians can monitor usage but they say it has reduced abuse and given adults uncensored access to the internet."


  1. If it’s on the internet it isn’t “abuse”. There’s no evidence to suggest that children seeing anything ever is traumatizing to them, especially if their questions are answered truthfully. Ignorance, lying and confusion are what causes childhood trauma, not information.

  2. Unfortunately, that’s problematic. It’s basically a privacy violation.

    To see the problem, imagine the signs said “Porn-seeking perverts” versus “Virtuous pillars of the community”.

  3. Scoutmaster: I read “abuse” in the original piece not to mean the abuse of children via exposing them to teh pr0n, but rather the abuse by computer users of the privilege of using the Internet in the public library.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

  4. I’m with Beastmouth. There are definitely things on the internet that can traumatize young kids. What kind of questions do you think your kids would ask after seeing Tub Girl?

  5. @3: I don’t follow your bouncing ball. Without the internet, the library would be productive? Should we eliminate Danielle Steel novels? I mean, those are fully unproductive. Regardless of how much porn it’s buried under, the internet is the best thing to happen to information in at least a century. Taking the library offline would turn it not into a den of productivity, but into a ghost ship.

  6. Scoutmaster, I’m with Nora: I read “abuse” as “abuse of the library computer system.”

    Allison Sprite: First, magic shows are done using clever sleight of hand. There’s no real magic involved.

    Second, if California or San Clemente have laws on the books prohibiting the use of black magic in public buildings, I’ll be flat-out astounded. You are aware that no one’s ever reliably demonstrated that real magic exists, right?

    Third, having the internet available in libraries is nothing like adding a jacuzzi or wide-screen TV. It’s a legitimate research tool. As for how much actual research gets done — do you imagine that all-paper libraries never got used for frivolous purposes? In the meantime, if you can think of a way to determine which users are being serious and which frivolous without grossly invading their privacy, let us know.

    Fourth, where do you live? If there’s a library that’s more like a mall, I’d love to see it.

  7. Unfiltered access to the internet is an importatn service. Filters don’t always discern between sites for breast cancer and porn sites.

    A library serves the information seeking needs of the community, whether those needs are scholarly or recreational. Few people would suggest that popular fiction, John Grisham let’s say, should be removed from the library for being too frivolous. Like printed materials, the internet runs the gamut from a vary useful information resource to a silly vacuous waste of time. However it is not the librarians place to judge a patron’s request for for quality or validity. If libraries are to remain viable they have to give the community what it wants while at the same time maintaining traditional resources and services.

    This type of sign is not elegant but it is effective. And Magic Shows, esp. when combined with a targeted type of programming, lets say kids story hour or teen reading, can be both entertaining and educational.

  8. As a former public library librarian, I can say that unfiltered Internet is simultaneously 1)important for intellectual freedom reasons and 2) a giant pain in the rear end. More broadly speaking, computers are transforming the texture of libraries and attracting new demographic slices that previously had no use for the library. Add to that what Amazon and have done for allowing book lovers to access books, and the impact of Google on giving people access to basic reference information, and you have even more more upheaval in public library land. Just today I predicted to a colleague that by 2025, the stereotype of public libraries as being about books and a quiet environment will be replaced by something having to do with computers, community programming, and probably the taint of Internet addiction/e-stalking/etc.

  9. I’m a librarian…

    *We don’t judge what you read or look at online. *We don’t monitor what people do.
    *We are happy to help you find whatever type of information you are looking for.
    *We have children’s titles, adult nonfiction, and all types of fiction, including classic, popular, and everything in between (yes erotic too).
    *Filtered/unfiltered computers are for adults/children. This gives parents a choice. They can choose to have their child on a filtered computer or unfiltered.

    Freedom of information is a core value that librarians uphold.

  10. The library in Salt Lake City, UT is kind of like a mall. It’s also kind of the coolest thing this city has! The place is always full of people, but most people aren’t buying stuff in the shops, they are hanging out, reading, surfing the net, drinking coffee, researching, studying, etc. There’s nothing wrong with making a library appealing to visitors.

  11. Now what would be fun would be to swap the cables
    to connect a keyboard and monitor on the filtered
    side to a computer on the unfiltered side.

  12. Hmm. weird. my message never showed up. :(

    We have a small libary branch IN a mall out in washington at South Center mall.

    I agree filtering can be annoying. I was trying to do research on weaponry for a fantasy story I was writing and I was filterned out. Hapily I could ask for a unfiltered account and it was pretty painless.

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