|Privacy screens do not stop|
child molestation in public libraries
Having sent a letter to the Los Angeles City Council, I published it in a comment at the well-respected LibraryStuff blog that made it visible to many. Possibly as a result, I was contacted by the Los Angeles Times for information relating to this matter. The next day, the following was published:
Dan Kleinman, who runs the website SafeLibraries.org, said in a letter to city officials that such filters are necessary to keep library visitors safe. Privacy screens aren't enough, he said.
In an interview, Kleinman, who lives in New Jersey, pointed out that libraries already have book selection policies and should have similar guidelines that determine what people can view online.
Excerpt source: "Los Angeles Libraries Grapple with Online Pornography; After a Recent Outcry About Online Pornography at a Chinatown Branch Library, Los Angeles has been Working to Protect Bystanders While Not Infringing on Computer Users' 1st Amendment Rights," by Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, 13 April 2011, p.AA-3, hyperlink in original.
Look at that sentence, "Privacy screens aren't enough, he said." That's right. And I was far more specific in the letter to the city, even including a hyperlink to a news story of an investigation of privacy screens in a nearby library and the many children molested there:
And "privacy screens" are useless, except as political cover to make an excuse for why filters should not be used. Here’s a story from the San Francisco Bay area that may convince you, and watch what happens when the library director gets caught in a lie: "Porn, Sex Crimes At Libraries; I-Team Investigation," KGO, 29 Nov 2006 ( http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=i_team&id=4808374 ).
|Privacy screen on library computer showing how|
ineffective the screen is for blocking what's displayed.
San Francisco Bay Area, CA: "Porn, Sex Crimes At Libraries; I-Team Investigation," KGO, 29 Nov 2006, "[T]he Martin Luther King Library has a problem with pornography. They have no rule against viewing photographs or full-screen sex videos from Internet sites, even with children nearby. Chief librarian Jane Light says it's a matter of free speech. .... ABC7's Dan Noyes: 'I've seen the [privacy] screens and I see how they work and the stuff is visible from behind. You can see everything.' Jane Light...: 'So you can avert your eyes.' .... San Jose's police blotter over the past year lists several arrests for child porn at the library, at least ten cases of child molestation or other sex crimes involving kids and several cases of men viewing porn and performing a lewd act, right at the terminal. .... Sgt. John Laws, San Jose library police: 'It showed him sitting at the computer terminal and ... masturbating.' .... Marcia Stacke, Child Quest International: 'You know, sometimes I wonder if we're just too afraid to be, I don't know, sued in this country. We've got to step out and protect our kids. Enough is enough.'"
"Avert your eyes"
And look at what's directly below that:
Los Angeles, CA: "Lawless Libraries?," CBS 2, 16 Nov 2006 (An anonymous library security officer warns, "I absolutely wouldn't send my kids to any branch in the city of L.A. because they are unsafe." A librarian said, "I think that it's gonna take somebody getting killed before management really pays attention. That's how bad it has gotten." "[T]he library wants to keep this information under wraps. 'The management wants to cover this up because they don't want people to think the libraries are unsafe but all you have to do is talk to any library staff member and they'll tell you how safe it is,' the anonymous officer says.")
Now given the specific warnings the government was given, given the warnings contained incidents of child molestation, given even the librarians themselves spoke out against crimes, in LA itself, no less, it seems to me the government has opened the door to significant liability for deciding to allow pornography in public libraries claiming fear of litigation while at the same time choosing known ineffective means that are falsely named privacy screens and ignoring the litigation threat from molested children and the like.
LA Law Library informed me as follows:
The establishment of the Los Angeles City Public Library rests on the Los Angeles City Charter, Article V Departments, beginning at section 530. This can be found on the Internet through the web site of American Legal Publishing (http://www.amlegal.com/library/ca/losangeles.shtml) which provides editorial and distribution services under contract to the city. You can also reach the same web site from the City of Los Angeles web site (http://www.cityofla.org/SubMenu/CityCharterRulesCodes/index.htm).
I checked that section and more. The language, however, did not define the purposes for the library, so that was a dead end in this case.
Next I looked at library policy. The "Mission Statement" says, "The Los Angeles Public Library provides free and easy access to information, ideas, books and technology that enrich, educate and empower every individual in our city's diverse communities." Pornography of the kind viewed on the millions of the Internet's pornographic web sites is not "informative." It contains ideas, but of the carnal nature, not those that "enrich, educate and empower every individual." Allowing pornography exceeds the library's own mission as stated in its own words.
The government created the library. Although the enabling law was silent, allowing the library to exceed its own stated mission may make the government vulnerable to liability for harm caused as a result of criminal acts occasioned by its permissive action. If the government is so concerned about lawsuits, and it said it was concerned about First Amendment suits for failure to allow pornography, then perhaps the government ought to reconsider its decision to jettison filters in favor of privacy screens. Privacy screens simply do not work, as the following graphic illustrates:
|This public library patron is viewing pornography|
on a computer having a "privacy screen" of the
very same kind as shown in a graphic above.
Notice how little the "privacy screen" blocks.
|Is Los Angeles exposed to litigation|
risk for crimes in public libraries?
This is an interesting matter, is it not? Not to potential crime victims, of course.
Now, with due respect to US Copyright §107 Fair Use, to further the education of the readers, and due to the original link being no longer valid, I reproduce below relevant information. Notice all the people speaking anonymously out of fear, including librarians. Notice the library crimes remained hidden until CBS 2 News did an investigation and reported the results.
Remember I used the word "malfeasance"? With a history of crime like shown by CBS 2 News, and with the other information at hand to the government, is it not malfeasance to allow unlimited pornography in public libraries that will likely produce more public library crime?
by CBS 2 News
16 November 2006
(CBS) LOS ANGELES - Libraries are thought of as a safe haven where kids can escape into a world of books. After school they're packed with children biding the time until their parents get out of work. But take a look at who may be sitting next to them…
Our undercover camera caught this man using the library computer to view pornography—right out in the open! And that's just the first chapter in a long list of crimes we found—along with a warning from this library security officer who wants to remain anonymous.
"I absolutely wouldn't send my kids to any branch in the city of L.A. because they are unsafe," he said.
Hundreds of pages of reports obtained exclusively by CBS 2 News show what's going on in the L.A. city libraries.
We found a threat to kill a 13-year-old student. People carrying concealed weapons, which were confiscated at the library. Stabbings. Syringes. And librarians being attacked.
"It was the most horrible experience I've ever had in the workplace," said one librarian who also wanted to remain anonymous. She says she was assaulted by a teenager and there was no one to stop it.
"There was no, no security. No assistance when I needed it. And it was very ugly."
"I think it's gonna take somebody getting killed before management really pays attention. That's how bad it has gotten."
Wendy McPherson has worked as a librarian in the Los Angeles city system for eight years and she has seen it all.
"There are some branches that have gotten so unsafe that there should be security there on all hours that it's open," McPherson said.
We also discovered libraries are havens for sex. We watched one man use the library computer to watch porn.
Incident reports also detail consensual sex in the bathrooms—groping between the book aisles and lone sex at the computers. Our security officer says the library wants to keep this information under wraps.
"The management wants to cover this up because they don't want people to think the libraries are unsafe but all you have to do is talk to any library staff member and they'll tell you how safe it is," the anonymous officer says.
Overall, we found incidents are going up. 683 incidents reported in 2005 and 646 already reported in just the first seven months of this year. The numbers break the myth—according to this librarian—that libraries are a safe place for kids.
"Parents need to understand that they need to accompany their children when they come to visit the library," the librarian says.
Ironically the plan was for safer libraries this year. That's because in February library security was consolidated under the city's general services police department. Hundreds of officers were added citywide. But some librarians say security has actually gotten worse.
Unarmed library security officers—are now backed up by armed officers from the office of public safety. But besides answering library calls, these armed officers answer calls from 1,500 facilities citywide. Critics say the two departments are spread so thin—there's actually less security.
"How safe do you think the libraries are?"
Police Chief Gary Newton defends the consolidation.
"I would say to a parent the libraries are safe. Statistics show there are only about 25 incident reports generated per million visitors."
He claims incidents are actually down—although he doesn't have numbers to back it up. But he candidly admits resources are stretched thin.
"In a perfect world, there would be more public safety staff to service our libraries but the reality is there's limited budget money within the city and we do the best we can with what we have," Newton says.
The chief is looking for more money. But until then, L.A.'s youth looking to learn in the libraries may be getting an unwanted education on crime.
(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
NOTE ADDED 16 APRIL 2011:
The decision to allow unfettered porn in public libraries by using the excuse of moving the computers and using useless privacy screens has become the butt of jokes. As one said, the inmates are running the asylum:
The L.A. Public Library moved its computers across the room so people watching porn aren't visible to children at the checkout desk. City officials said people have a constitutional right to watch porn in a library. Roman Polanski is starting to think it's safe to come home.
This quote can also be found here: "Column: L.A. Library Policy has Polanski Excited," by Argus Hamilton, The Daily Courier, 13 April 2011.
I really have nothing to say about this. Simply another case of the inmates running the asylum. Why not just put up a little red curtain to the adult computer lab? Hell, we already check IDs at the door in some way or another. I only have one question: When do we get to have liquor licenses?
NOTE ADDED 17 APRIL 2011:
For appearing in the Los Angeles Times article, I have come under withering ad hominem attack. See: "Safe Libraries dot Org?," by Russell Smith, The Hollywood Librarian, 17 April 2011. I have left the following response that is, as of this writing, not visible due to normal comment moderation:
I have a response.
You said, "They believe that libraries should install filters that will block out pornographic material."
That is incorrect. My "beliefs" are irrelevant. Instead, SafeLibraries provides accurate information to communities and their leaders so that they can make informed decisions. The information provided by some is false. This is not just my opinion. The information is so false that even library directors specifically call out the "dogma" of those who seek to mislead communities. See, for example, "Library Porn Removal Roadmap; NCRL Director Dean Marney Details How to Legally Remove Legal Porn from Public Library Computers and Advises that the ALA Relies on Outdated Dogma" at http://tinyurl.com/ALAdogma or see "Librarians are Guardians of a Trust, by Jo Ellen Ringer, Notus Public Library Director and Guest Writer" at http://tinyurl.com/JoEllenRinger
You said, "The head of this organization is a man named Dan Klineman. The LA Times reports that he wrote a letter to 'city officials.' In this letter he said that 'privacy screens are not enough,' and that 'filters are necessary to keep library visitors safe.' I must confess that Mr. Klineman needs the services of a librarian to make his website more user friendly. It's really a mess. Nowhere on the website was I able to discern if Mr. Klineman has a library degree."
Setting aside the misspelling of my name, my appearance in the LA Times is discussed, then your very first reaction is an ad hominem one to attack me personally for having an ugly web site and for lacking a library degree. People who make personal attacks broadcast that they have no substantive argument on which to stand. Indeed several paragraphs are devoted just to ridiculing me.
You said, "For instance, a google search on 'breast cancer' might filter out the majority of the information."
As it turns out, that is part of the dogma exposed by the library community as false. Even an ACLU expert now admits modern filters no longer block health related information. And note, I back up my statements with facts, not personal attacks. See, for example, "ACLU v. Gonzales, E.D. Pa., March 2007." http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/07D0346P.pdf
You said, "Mr. Klineman compared book selection, or collection management as it is sometimes called, to Internet policing and said they were basically the same thing. When I read this in Ms. Linthicum’s story, I was aghast."
I am not surprised to hear of this claimed surprise. Perhaps you should read or reread US v. ALA. Here's the URL for anyone to see what the Court said about this, and it aligns: http://laws.findlaw.com/us/539/194.html It also aligns with what Eugene Volokh said, "However, Volokh said the city could have a plausible argument for banning pornography in its public libraries. 'Clearly the city is entitled to decide what books to buy for libraries,' Volokh said." http://www.bhcourier.com/article/Local/Local/Los_Angeles_Council_To_Consider_Porn_In_City_Libraries/75621
You said, "If you go to Safe Libraries dot Org's homepage, you are greeted in big, bright, blue lettering with a question, 'Are Children Safe in Public Libraries?' Then directly below this question, in smaller print is the answer, Children Are Not Safe in Public Libraries. In my opinion, before somebody starts to tell someone how to run a library, that somebody should have a degree in Library Sciences."
Interesting opinion. Fortunately, the ALA's former 40 year de facto leader, Judith Krug, has a library degree. She's the one who said, "I get very concerned when we start hearing people who want to convert this country into a safe place for children. I am adult. I want available what I need to see." http://www.safelibraries.org/oak_lawn_library_vows_to_keep_playboy_on_shelf23jun2005by_jo_napolitano.htm I feel assured that I would have the full backing of the 40 year de facto leader who held a library degree to say children are not safe in public libraries. Claiming I need a library degree to make that statement that the ALA's own former leader would make is just another ad hominem attack due to a lack of a substantive basis for why people should follow ALA dogma instead of legal precedent allowing a community to protect its own children from harm.
That said, thank you for writing about me.