The following letter to the editor was sent by a resident who is concerned over the Glen Rock Public Library's 'balancing act' on protecting the sensitivity of residents and first amendment rights as it relates to pornography and questionable content on library computers.
The letter is unedited as follows.
To the Editor:
Glen Rock can do better!
Having lived in Glen Rock for 23 years, I’ve spent many happy hours with my children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends at the Glen Rock Library. Imagine my shock last April, when I saw a man viewing online pornography, only to learn that it was library policy to allow access to pornographic material. Although still horrified, I was not surprised to see the same man doing the same thing, a week later. Both incidents occurred when the library was crowded with adults and children of all ages; some alone, others with tutors or parents.
Our community works very hard to make Glen Rock a family oriented town; a place where people aspire to live. We have high standards for our schools, services and activities; along with a documented concern for the safety of our children. Residents have the right to demand those same standards for the library and its services. Should we be the town “squarely in the center”---a place where anyone from anywhere feels comfortable viewing obscene or pornographic material online? Or should we be the community recognized for “raising the bar”?
A group of concerned residents, including myself, has met with the Library Board multiple times requesting a stronger stance on access to viewing obscene and pornographic materials online. There have been a few positive changes made as a result of those meeting. However, I feel the Board has taken a middle of the road position on allowing access to online pornography. The publicized privacy screens give a false sense of protection, since you can still see what patrons are viewing from behind. Posting policy is an important step. Yet, many people are still unaware of the possibility that other library patrons could be viewing pornography while using the computers. Although, adding separate computers in the children’s room for 5th graders and below is a positive move, this effort still does not protect children and young adults from being exposed to questionable internet users. The current library Internet Use Policy places the innocent in a potentially compromising and dangerous situation.
In checking with other local libraries, I found the following policy practices:
Ridgewood has adopted a “no tolerance” approach. They will proactively ask a person to cease viewing or leave. Hawthorne does the same. Why isn’t the Glen Rock Library staff empowered to make the same demand?
Wyckoff also takes a no tolerance stand and in August 2012 revised its Internet policy. In part, Wyckoff’s policy reads: “The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not protect all Internet content. No Wyckoff Library computer may be used to view or display obscenity, child pornography or other illegal content…. The legal status of any particular content can be determined only by a court of law with proper jurisdiction. The library reserves the right to terminate any Internet session at any time if it is determined to violate any provision of or the spirit or intent of this policy….”
Glen Rock’s approach is passive enforcement, even though its internet policy contains the following statement: “In accordance with federal and state laws and regulations, patrons are not permitted to use terminals for any illegal or criminal purpose, including but not limited to, accessing legally obscene materials. Misuse of the computer or Internet access will result in the loss of your computer privileges…” This statement should empower our library staff to ask people to cease or leave. Current practice requires a patron’s complaint before any action is taken.
Here are a few of the options previously presented to the board:
- Adopt a “no tolerance” policy for viewing pornography, which empowers staff and patrons to request offenders to cease or leave
- Install Internet filtering software to a majority of computers and provide a limited number of computers without filtering, requiring sign-up with a library card or drivers license to access unfiltered material
- Provide more specific and prominent notice on how computers may be used and the consequences if regulations are ignored
In all other respects, the Glen Rock library is a tremendous asset to our community. In this era of Internet access, let us not lose our commitment to the standards of quality and social responsibility that have guided the library’s growth and distinction. Let’s keep this as the town we come home to. Let’s not be known as the town to come to for easy access to online obscene or pornographic material.
I will continue to urge the Library Board to take a stronger position on access to obscenity and pornography on the Internet. I encourage all residents to contact the Library Director firstname.lastname@example.org and Friends of the Library email@example.com to let them know how you feel about this issue.