Friday, February 17, 2006

Keystone Kops, Legalistic Librarians

Here's a bizarre story from the Washington Post (that I found via Boing Boing). County employees hired to patrol public buildings, who happened to be wearing Homeland Security hats, ordered a library patron out of the library for allegedly viewing porn. Busting people for viewing porn wasn't in their job description and they've since been reassigned.

Guys hired to protect public buildings from terrost attacks shouldn't be intimidating library patrons. Good for the library for making that clear. But I find the idea that patrons must be allowed to view porn in a public library because librarians aren't legally empowered to determine obscentity more than a little bizarre. What is the library worried about, a lawsuit? Or are librarians just not trusted to make a call? I'm sure it's not pleasant to approach someone and say "that's not appropriate here," but I wouldn't go so far as to say that would be a violation of the first amendment. An awful lot of Internet porn is clearly porn, and it doesn't take a lawyer to make that determination.

Though I'm against mandated filters (because they don't work well enough to limit their filtering to unprotected obscene speech) I think this approach makes librarians' legitimate defense of free speech seem extremist and ridiculous. Not to mention fairly inconsiderate of the majority of library users.


No comments: