Sunday, July 20, 2008

Library Paternalism

My Dad recently made me aware of this:

Lakewood -- Lakewood Public Library Director Kenneth Warren wants you to know there's nothing private about the 60 public access computers at the main branch.

Every 15 minutes, a staff member takes a stroll around the center to make sure library patrons are not looking at pornography, engaging in illegal gambling or visiting other questionable Web sites.

As somebody who used to frequent the Lakewood Public Library's old digs in the pre-Internet days of the early 90's, as well as being a librarian currently working at a library that neither monitors nor filters the information its patrons are perusing, I can't help but think this is paternalistic at best and chillingly invasive at worst.

According to the Library's Acceptable Use Policy,
"Employees are authorized to bring to an individual’s attention any act which will detract from the decorum of the library or will create a hostile workplace in violation of state and federal civil rights laws."

"Excuse me, sir, but that website you're looking at is clashing with our color scheme."

The Library is also considering using software
that will allow its prying librarians to monitor what patrons are looking at remotely.

There's a surprisingly, refreshingly civil conversation about this going on here that's worth a peak.

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