Libraries walk a tightrope on porn

Coverage Type: editorial
Laguna Beach, CA, United States

[Commentary] Some people never realized before that libraries, originally intended as great institutions of public edification through books, could be used these days as sources for viewing porn. Others were all too aware of the issue because they had seen library computers regularly used for decidedly unlofty pursuits, even when there were children around who could easily see the screens. Librarians have insisted that they are obliged to provide Internet access to pornography as a matter of their clients' free-speech rights; limiting or prohibiting access to certain kinds of information amounts to censorship, in their eyes. The reality is more complicated, though. Despite what the librarians say, libraries already restrict access to certain kinds of print material by using their scant financial resources to purchase some books and magazines rather than others. Libraries are far more likely to have copies of the New Yorker on the periodical shelves than copies of Hustler. True, Internet access to porn sites doesn't cost a library more than access to Wikipedia, but both involve making judgments about the relative worth of some materials over others.


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