The second floor at Berkeley Central Library has a large open area where numerous computers are placed. Children are allowed in this area. It was in this area that a woman, attempting to use the computers, could not comfortably work because of all the pornography on the computer monitors around her and the many responsive actions to what the viewers were seeing. She used to announce loudly, “He’s m.stu.b…ing.”She did this to draw attention of the library personnel to the situation. She had to do this on repeated occasions. When I heard about this from the woman, I e-mailed the mayor and my city council member about this and another similar situation that had been reported to me. My city council member responded that “the library seems to believe that it is not a problem”… “Seems to believe,” I believe, is the problematic phrase here.
Possibilities of why the library “seems to believe it is not a problem”:
because that is what they would like the City Council, the public and themselves to believe;
because the outraged woman, tired of complaining, had quit going there (she now uses a senior center for computer access);
because they possibly do not fully implement their stated policy that such a person will be instructed to leave the library immediately, police will be called and legal action to follow. “In addition, based on the severity of the situation, a suspension of library privileges for up to one year will be applied without advanced warning or prior suspension.” One could ask, if that is their policy, why was the woman repeatedly alerting them and calling out for help;
because they presumed they have trained offenders to not engage in such actions;
because the activity does not happen as often as it used to and they therefore “seem to believe it is not a problem;”
because many bystanders just leave rather than complain;
because possibly they have redefined what qualifies as self-pleasuring –whether the difference is furtive or full display. A friend of mine recently called the Berkeley 911 about a naked man on the street where children were walking and the police stated they would only come out if he had an erection. Possibly standards are changing more drastically than I thought.
because by the time the library personnel arrive, the offender has ceased their activity.
When young people and common decency play second fiddle to freedom of expression, something is seriously out of tune. The library has become a part of our social network and has gone way beyond its original function of allowing the public to access and check out books.
In order to create a smooth transition from former times, the Berkeley Public Library should reevaluate its services. One of the most pressing issues is that different age groups need different attention. If you keep the children and the young adults out of the adult computer areas, it is safer for everyone and there would be no need for privacy screens.
The library has to realize that not everyone who comes there is an adult. Since IT already blocks adults from using the computers set aside for younger people, it is time to make all cards age specific to the appropriate computers. Also, because self check-out is in place, DVDs need to be going out to appropriate ages by using the movie rating system as a guideline.
If the library refuses to accommodate the different age groups, then they should publically state their policy - “People of all ages must have free access to pornography.” This would inform the public about their commitment to “challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”
It is time for people to make their opinions known. Please feel free to consider this blog site a forum for presenting your concerns. To add comments to this blog you must provide your real name and e-mail address.
We should all be protectors of children and they should not be exposed to pornography. The library is aiding and abetting children’s exposure to pornography by their policy that pornography is available to all, regardless of age.
Art work of a 2 year old patron of the library.
A children’s librarian that I knew tried to keep the children’s area kid friendly by putting up a notice stating that you had to be 13 or older to use My Space (which is My Space’s requirement.) She was told by the library bureaucrats that the notice had to be taken down and children were allowed to do as they please.
Anyone who uses library computers frequently hears people periodically cursing their way through their computer time in areas that are open to children. The library also had and, may still have, an unwritten policy not to call the Truant Officer about difficult youngsters who were “acting out” at the library during school hours.
Although I enjoyed working for the library, I quit when I was told that I couldn’t do anything about youngsters viewing pornographic images on the children’s computer. However, the California Board of Appeals stated that I qualified for Unemployment Insurance because they agreed with my reason for quitting. Their judgment stated, “The claimant had a heartfelt belief that he could not be party to a policy which did not protect minor children within its doors. Accordingly, we believe that there was a real substantial and compelling reason for the claimant to quit his job and conclude the claimant had good cause.”
The Berkeley Public Library finally initiated action requiring that only children could be on the children’s computers sometime after I left. It used to be that anyone could use the children’s computers and the staff was supposed to tell adults that they were not to use them. Initially, they had two tiers of computers - “Everyone” and “Children’s.” I don’t know how long after I quit that they realized they had to create “Young Adult” computers (ages 13–17), which they later added privacy screens to. See our “Duplicity at the Berkeley Public Library”blog for more in depth coverage about this issue.
Do you trust the Berkeley Public Library to protect your children?
A pedophile was arrested on the second floor of the Berkeley Central Library while he was making computer contact with a child. He was sitting in the regular computer area where children are allowed. Since the library survives as a publicly funded institution, supported by the taxes of the people of Berkeley, should they not put some effort into protecting the children of Berkeley.
Why not make sure that children and young adults use only the computers in their “computer areas” since they are now issued “age specific” library cards for those areas. All other computers in the rest of the library should not be accessible to them.
Do you trust the Berkeley Public Library to spend wisely?
Is it wrong for the library to pay for and provide privacy screens on computer monitors?
Privacy screens are darkened screens that cover the computer monitor for the purpose of blocking exposure of the visual content to anyone from a distance. They are utilized to mask the pornography that many people find offensive. The ostensible reason for their placement is that the library is censoring what bystanders might see. However, depending on the angle, a passerby can easily see what is on the screen.
Was it necessary for the library to purchase laptops for use by the public when they want to use Wi’-Fi instead of having them use the desktop computers that are already hooked up to the internet ? The laptops have no privacy screens and are used anywhere in the library. If they prefer people who wish to view “adult” material to use only computers with privacy screens on the monitors, how do these free floating laptops protect others from viewing such “adult” material?
Does the Berkeley Public Library to follow their public mandates?
The library’s volunteer policy “encourages the active participation of citizens of a variety of ages” and yet, according to a librarian, they do not engage adults as volunteers anymore.
If pornography were a drug, one of its side effects would be self-pleasuring. If you think such things do not go on in libraries, check out (at your own risk) You Tube for personally captured videos.
Since sex is on the Berkeley Public Library’s list as one of “the 5 big no-nos in the library” — that should tell us something. At a branch library one day, I left because a man was thus occupied and there was no staff available to deal with the problematic behavior.
A librarian I know had to tell a patron who was engaged in such activity that it was not allowed at the library. His angry response was “I was not! Who said that? Where are they?” This responsibility — that the librarian has to interact with such people in order to maintain propriety - is actually a job for the police. The perpetrator of such activity knows that most likely the police will not be called and that there will be no arrests or incident reports. It is a case of “the less the public knows, the better.”
Since all of us have different standards of behavior, this will continue. Pornography sexually excites, therefore, this will continue. As long as no arrests happen, this will continue. As long as we keep silent about it, this will continue.
The Berkeley Public Library is trying to serve two masters by obfuscating: it espouses free speech while putting a cover over it.
Privacy screens are used on their computer monitors. Privacy screens are darkened screens that cover the computer monitor for the purpose of blocking exposure of the visual content to anyone from a distance. They started out as screens that patrons could place over their monitor when they wanted privacy. Originally, there was only one or two available. As time went on, more and more privacy screens were added. They are now built in to the new monitors. Originally, young adults (ages 13–17) and children did not have these screens. That has changed. These screens are now on the young adult computers. Are the children’s computers the next to receive privacy screens?
When I worked there, privacy screens were utilized to mask the pornography that many people found offensive. The library’s concern for freedom of speech was paramount and all types of pornography were allowed. Later, they decided that sites that catered to pornography with children were prohibited. One might ask, how is this achieved on their unfiltered internet?
Privacy screens are antithetical to the library policy, which challenges censorship. The ostensible reason for their placement is that the library is censoring what bystanders might see. However, depending on the angle, a passerby can easily see what is on the screen. This duplicity proves that privacy in a public place is basically delusional. It makes the library seem like a family-friendly place to be at while encouraging problematic viewing. Privacy screens are an admission that something is being covered up.
All computers at the library are unfiltered, despite the computer labels of “Children” and “Young Adult.” There are computers in a separate area for children and others in the area for the young adults. Children and young adults are also issued “age specific” library cards allowing them to access the computers in their “areas.” Adults cannot use the computers in those areas because their library cards are blocked on those computers. All computers in the rest of the library are accessible to all age groups. Children and young adults are not prohibited from using them.
Computers are not individuals with inalienable rights to dispense all information to all ages. The library is a public place and yet the library is setting up supposed privacy spaces with privacy screens. People using a public space cannot rely on the place to give them their desired extra privacy.