San Francisco Public Library Installs Porn Shields

San Francisco Public Library Installs Porn Shields

Porn and libraries go together like pig snouts and hot dogs—they're in there whether you want to think about it or not. The San Francisco Public Library has erected installed privacy hoods on some computers to protect the dignity of porn-hound patrons and the sensibilities of genteel passersby.

San Francisco adopted this solution after deciding that it hated censorship just as much as it hated having hardcore lesbian ménage à trois playing in the reference section. SFPL began with eighteen plastic porn shields in its main branch but will add more if they are popular with patrons. Library officials are also posting warnings on every computer asking users to be respectful of other visitors. Because that will work wonders to dissuade people who can't muster the common decency to head home before enjoying The Gropes of Wrath.

The debate over censorship of porn in libraries isn't new. A 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling required public libraries to install filters to get federal funds, but left it up to individual libraries to decide which sites the filters would block, saying:

 A public library has traditionally and historically enjoyed broad discretion to select materials to add to its collection of printed materials for its patrons’ use. We conclude that the same discretion must be afforded a public library to choose what materials from millions of Internet sites it will add to its collection and make available to its patrons.

Libraries walk a fine line. Some people were upset by NYC libraries' policy, which is that adult content is free speech protected under the First Amendment. Others were upset by a Washington library's internet filter, which was blocking too much; the American Civil Liberties Union sued them after finding that the porn filter blocked out some non-boobtastic sites as well. And, of course, Florida libraries have been dealing with the Fifty Shades Of Grey censorship kerfuffle this year.

What's your take? Is porn viewing in public libraries acceptable? Should libraries block adult sites from public computers?

Image via nytimes.com

Image of Porn Nation: Conquering America's #1 Addiction
Author: Michael Leahy
Price: $9.06
Publisher: Northfield Publishing (2008)
Binding: Hardcover, 224 pages
Image of The Porning of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What It Means, and Where We Go from Here
Author: Carmine Sarracino, Kevin M. Scott
Price: $17.88
Publisher: Beacon Press (2008)
Binding: Hardcover, 272 pages
Kimberly Turner

News by Kimberly Turner

Kimberly Turner is an internet entrepreneur, DJ, editor, beekeeper, linguist, traveler, and writer. This either makes her exceptionally well-rounded or slightly crazy; it’s hard to say which. She spent a decade as a journalist and magazine editor in Australia and the U.S. and is now working (very, very slowly) on her first novel. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two cats, ten fish, and roughly 60,000 bees.

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Comments

Daniel W Broallt's picture
Daniel W Broallt from Texas is reading The Emerald Mile July 30, 2012 - 12:50pm

When I lived in Austin, circa 2004, the branch near my house had three open computers with one having a porn shield. I remember seeing folk use it and thinking to myself, what perverts, can't you do that at home, or at least steal a porn magazine from Barnes and Nobles (you know, if they were poor, and maybe had no Internet). Then one day, I came in and there was a long line to get online and I found myself using the shielded computer! I then assumed that my neiborhood had significantly less perverts than I previously imagined. 

My takeaway is that a better solution to this issue than shields would be to instead issue pornviewer party hats, tall and bright, like a traffic cone, so other patrons know to stay away from your space if they'd be offended by your porn viewing (though I suppose there is a spectrum of what different folks could find offensive). This way, folks who wanted to use one of the limited number of computers, could do so without all their potential neighbors going home and gossiping.

I also wander if there could be an age-restricted area in the library, sort of like how bars employ doormen to keep out those under 21 and ATF checks up on bars, a similar practice could be put in place at libraries. This way communities that did not want access to these websites at their libraries could just say that it was budgetary concerns, whereas communities that wanted access to these websites at their libraries, could pay more in local  taxes or  library user fees to employ the doorman to that specific age-restricted area of the library.

 

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne July 31, 2012 - 8:36am

We don't need pornography in libraries. If something may be erotic, or a book that a person can enjoy privately, fine, but if the sole purpose is to jerk off to it, keep that crap somewhere else. It's a public place. There are children around. If you're too poor to own a computer and pay for Internet access, you'll just have to buy your boobies from a newsstand like everyone else.

Dan Kleinman's picture
Dan Kleinman August 1, 2012 - 1:02am

"Libraries walk a fine line."  Not really.  The US Supreme Court and other courts have said it is perfectly legal to filter out legal porn from public libraries using Internet filters; it's not censorship; it's not a First Amendment violation.

"Some people were upset by NYC libraries' policy, which is that adult content is free speech protected under the First Amendment."  That is true, but typical for such a library it is a half truth.  The US Supreme Court said a library is a quasi public forum, not an open public forum, therefore the library may filter out the Internet porn, just like it currently has book selection policies to filter out porn as well.  So, while "adult content is free speech protected under the First Amendment," it is not protected in a public library, and the NYC libraries intentionally leave that out.  As Joe Walsh wrote in his latest album, if you act like you know what you're dong, everybody thinks that you do.  NYC libraries can act with the best of them, and people are intimidated to rein in the libraries.

"Others were upset by a Washington library's internet filter, which was blocking too much; the American Civil Liberties Union sued them after finding that the porn filter blocked out some non-boobtastic sites as well."  And the ACLU lost in both the Washington state and federal courts.  The library director who beat the ACLU to shreds was Dean Marney.  See what he says about the "dogma" the libraries use to fool people into thinking you must not filter out porn:

<a href="http://tinyurl.com/ALADogma">http://tinyurl.com/ALADogma</a>

So, in San Francisco, the library director is intentionally flat out misleading the public.  If he says otherwise, I challenge him to a debate right here on LitReactor.  When Dean Marney was in sort of a debate with an American Library Assocition leader, she folded like a cheap camera, admitted library filters work, and admitted the claimed inability to research "breast cancer" is an old excuse.

<a href="http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2012/02/ala-admits-library-filters-work-barbara.html">http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2012/02/ala-admits-library-filters-work-barbara.html</a>