Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stupidity on the state front: librarians as nannies

I got around to reading my mail from the Alaska Library Association listserve, and found this ugly little thing under a rock:

HB 353: "An Act relating to the blocking of certain Internet sites at public libraries and to library assistance grants," sponsored by Representative Wes Keller, a twit from Anchorage (there's more--see the next post). Here's their lovely little press release:
House Bill 353 will encourage public libraries to assure that our young people do not have access to adult internet sites. Presently, there is cost effective software that allows responsible adults to prevent access to sites that could be considered objectionable. Parents and guardians of children use this software to prevent access.

While children are prevented from accessing these sites at home, some public libraries do not use this blocking technology and staffing limitations prevent libraries from monitoring. A simple installation of the software will prevent children from reaching adult sites without the need for a monitor.

Because of the concern that denying access might be considered unconstitutional, and because blocking software might block sites that are necessary for research, HB 353 includes language that allows adults to request that the software be disabled. The courts have already ruled this is an acceptable compromise.

HB 353 is also reactive in its approach should a library refuse to purchase and install the software. The bill would restrict state and local grant money to the library for refusal.
Right. Punish the bastions of free speech for daring to allow kids to look up words like "scrotum" on the Internet. Or perhaps even view one without pulling their pants down in the bathroom. Crap. Bludgeon our libraries, why don't you, Wes? It is NOT a librarian's responsibility to censor. Anything. That is completely counter to what libraries are FOR. And to punish them with a big fat stick like this in a regressive way is stupid. Why not simply provide funding for the software instead, and make it available to any library that wishes to use it? Bet you'd have a lot more takers and a lot less resistance that way.

Goddamn retrograde neanderthal wingnut busybodies! I HATE this kind of thing. What a waste of the Legislature's time. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we need to cut the session down to 30 days, so they only deal with what is absolutely necessary. They've obviously got way, way too much time on their hands.

Rex, oh, Rex, where are you? Arise, librarians and freethinkers of Alaska! Unite against the forces of darkness!

2 comments: said...

Such laws have nothing to do with nannies. At their essence they allow communities to control their own public libraries by preventing outside organizations from forcing or canoodling libraries to defy local laws, community standards, and common sense.

By way of example, let's look at your own post. You talk about censorship, yet you do not reveal the US Supreme Court has already found censorship is not involved. You talk about free speech, which the US Supreme Court also said is not the case with library filters, yet the only free speech you apparently support is the right to force local communities to defy their own laws, etc. Next you say libraries are "bastions of free speech." Again, you completely ignore the US Supreme Court on this issue.

You know, the ALA (American Library Association) lost in US v. ALA and lost big, you know that, right? HB353 appears to be a state version of the federal CIPA law that was found constitutional in US v. ALA. Many other states have state versions of the federal CIPA law, why? Because people in those states were able to overcome the complete misinformation from people like you.

I don't think you mean it when you say, "Goddamn retrograde neanderthal wingnut busybodies! I HATE this kind of thing. What a waste of the Legislature's time." What I think you mean is that you have no good argument NOT to allow HB353, so instead you use personal attack and misinformation, as described above, to browbeat people or mislead people into doing your dirty work.

Can you come up with an argument that does not involve ignoring US v. ALA and using ad hominem argument?

Deirdre Helfferich said...

They are the club approach, rather than the carrot, and I find that intrinsically offensive.

Your response is rather interesting: you assume that I "do not reveal" that the US Supreme Court decided that censorship is not involved in this sort of thing, and am therefore (by implication) involved in censorship myself, which is pretty dang underhanded wording. Well, I didn't KNOW about this decision, so it's not that I am censoring something, nor that I am offering up misinformation. I am providing the public with my personal opinion about this. (This IS a blog, after all.)

However, just because the current Supreme Court found this situation not to involve censorship, or to be constitutional, does not mean that I particularly agree with their judgement. The Supreme Court has lately made some completely ludicrous decisions, generally on the 5-4 partisan split that reflects the partisan and equally ludicrous appointments to this bench made in the last seven years. The dissenting opinions will be important in the future when the damage done by this court is repaired. And you might take a look at the details of the loss: the ALA didn't exactly "lose big." It was a relatively limited decision.

And I mean EXACTLY what I said: I find this to be a retrograde approach, used by busybodies to control access to information and to force their worldview on the public. I am not suggesting that librarians should not use their ordinary judgement in the performance of their duties, nor that they should defy local law, community standards, or common sense. Libraries and librarians ARE bastions of free speech and knowledge both. I am emphatically declaring that there are other, more sensible approaches -- most already in use by libraries -- to the problem of providing age-appropriate materials to children and preventing inappropriate materials from being given to young children. The problem is, Internet filters don't work very well, and they hamper the research of adults.

Financially punishing libraries for not buying a particular type of software is simply not the right way to deal with the problem.