You know what happens when you type the word "porn" into the computer search engine at the public library in Wenatchee? Absolutely nothing. Not a thing comes up. It is as if pornography didn't even exist -- which is just the way Dan Howard likes it. "We believe having pornography in public places hurts our ability to accomplish our mission," says Howard, director of public services for the North Central Regional Library District. And that mission, he adds, is to promote reading and lifelong learning.
The policy also means they have to block some popular sites, like Google Images, that disable their filter.
"We cannot allow any access to an Internet site that would subvert our Internet filter," said Howard.
The NCRL, which has 28 libraries in their central Washington district, knows its policy puts them in the minority, but that's the way it goes.
The flip side of all this is the case involving a Lake City woman named Julie Howe (click here to see Seattle Weekly's full story) who recalls seeing a man watching hard-core pornography on a computer at the Lake City Library on a late Sunday afternoon last month.
Howe was with her 7- and 10-year-old daughters who she left in the children's section while she went to peruse the DVD movies on hand.
As Howe recalls on the Lake City Live neighborhood blog:
...I noticed that a man was watching hard core pornography (including anal penetration & other adult content) on a computer where the screen was facing out into the library. I told the librarian and asked for help in having him move to a more discreet location.
She could see the screen from the information desk where we were standing and was sympathetic, but said that the library doesn't censor content and they can't be in the business of monitoring what their patrons are doing at any given computer. I then asked the man to please move to another computer. He declined.
Andra Addison, spokeswoman for the Seattle Public Library, said, "We don't tell people what they can view. We want to give people choices. Our role is to facilitate access to information. And we do that without scrutiny, without judgment and without censorship."