A local mom is upset because she saw a man sitting at a computer in a Greensboro public library branch, looking at "an unclothed woman in a pornographic image." She says in an email, distributed to dozens of people, that she was at the Kathleen Clay Edwards library with her daughters, aged 9 and 11, and that she previously encountered young men looking at porn at the Hemphill branch.
Along with some recipients of the email, she demands to know what the library is doing about porn.
It's important for the library to address the needs parents and kids, and to take concerns about content seriously. It's also important not to panic and make emotional decisions about a vital public asset and the free flow of information. We need numbers and facts about how serious and widespread this problem is, and what the best solutions to it might be.
One thing the library has not done so far is install content filters. That's because, after extensive review of the options and periodic reevaluations of the technology, the filtering software has been found inadequate -- it blocks stuff that a library should let through, and misses some stuff that it shouldn't.
I'm not an anti-filtering absolutist. Libraries have always filtered print content -- they don't stock Hustler in the magazine section, for example. The internet makes this job much more difficult. Filtering technology is improving; if the software has evolved to a certain point, then our library should carefully consider using it.
If not, it should continue its regular evaluations of the software, and work to strengthen its existing program, and to communicate with families and other users about expectations and realities of life in the internet age.
Previous discussion of this issue in this post, and in the comments beneath it.