2011-05-06 / Editorial/Opinion

Our Libraries Should Be Safe Havens

Go into any library in Rockaway, particularly the Far Rockaway and Arverne branches, and you will see dozens of kids spread out among the tables and computers, doing their homework, working on research papers, hanging out with friends in a safe environment while they await their parents’ return home. They have become a necessary safe haven for many pre-teens and teens. Now, however, that might change. The city’s public libraries have announced a policy that gives adult users uncensored access to extreme hardcore websites. Library officials say that the material is protected by the Constitution under the First Amendment, the right to free speech. While we are staunch defenders of free speech and an open society, there have to be reasonable limits and exposing young minds to hardcore porn exceeds those limits. Some libraries have attempted to lessen the problem by putting side screens on their computers, blocking the screen for those working adjacent to the computer, but the sound still filters through and is tantalizing enough to draw young patrons to take a peak at what is going on. U.S. Law says that any library getting federal funding must block content containing illegal obscenity and child pornography, but no filter is perfect in blocking out the material and the library warns patrons that it cannot succeed in blocking everything. Civil libertarians like that just fine. “In deference to the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, you cannot prevent adult patrons from accessing adult content that is legal,” said an ACLU spokesperson. We think that some accommodation must be worked out. Perhaps, like triple-XXX stores, the computers that can access pornographic sites should be behind a closed and locked door, where adults have access, but children do not.

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