PORNOGRAPHY IN THE LIBRARY?
As a grateful patron of the lovely Santa Monica Library, I was shocked to look up from my computer screen in Computer Commons and discover that I was inadvertently able to see very clearly what was on the screen of another person’s computer as it was lined up perfectly within view. What I saw was pornography.
If, by definition pornography “depicts erotic behavior designed to cause sexual excitement”, what relevant value does it have in a public library used by adults and children?
I have since witnessed pornography being viewed by quite a few patrons on an almost daily basis. Although there are “privacy screens” on the computers, they do not effectively do what they purport when one is directly lined up with the computer, even if at a distance. I was glad to hear, after several conversations with the Head Librarian, that there will now be the possibility that adults supervising children may be able to use computers in the children’s section while supervising their children. However, this in itself does not solve the problem as other young people may use the “adult” area computers without supervision and are thus subjected to the viewing of pornography on the screens of others.
When I raised my concern to the library staff, I was told that “Santa Monica Public Library adheres to the American Library Association’s policy, which “supports the right of individuals to choose library materials for themselves,” including those in electronic formats.
Still, shouldn’t the public expect restriction of adult access to pornographic sites to be weighed against the social good and of protecting children and young adults not mature enough to process this information? It must recognize that pornography is exploitive and objectifying and is not loving, respectful and appropriately private. Doesn’t it seem that pornography sites are more about commerce in dirty pictures than free speech?
I do not feel that it is the library’s obligation or responsibility to provide adult, sexually explicit information for its patrons. Why should it? The library is not an adult store. In fact, in such stores, care is taken to identify the age of its prospective customers as is likewise done in movie theatres where there are age appropriate ratings. Any time a minor or child younger than the stipulated rating is allowed in the screening, they must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Unfortunately, this is not practiced in the library setting.
We are always confronted with challenges and thus we may evolve. Desensitization to lack of human dignity and value does not make for a healthy society. Accomplishing the online filtering out of pornography might be a bit of a challenge but that shouldn’t be a rationale to consider it acceptable. It is time long overdue to step up to our responsibility of contributing to the well being of our young people by providing information which contributes to the teaching of healthy relationships. It is time to move forward with heart presence so that we are appropriate and inspiring role models.