Posting the Names of Porn Viewers


Look out librarians. The American Library Association Library Bill of Rights is under attack once more. This time a council member from a small town in Massachusetts is the aggressor. Daniel Raymondi, a city councilor from Quincy, MA, proposed a resolution in which the names of citizens who violate the local public library’s policy restricting improper internet use, aka viewing porn, will be posted in a public location. This resolution passed unanimously!
Full details of this news story can be found here.

The reasons why I disagree with this resolution are numerous. Chief among them are the following arguments.

I’m suspicious about the legality of this new law. The library policy restricting improper internet use is simply that: a policy. It is not a law; it’s a social agreement between those running the public institution and those using it. The usual consequence of violating a policy ranges from warnings to expulsion, not public humiliation. In addition, in this age of identity theft and confidentiality concerns, I am shocked at the proposed punishment. The ALA Code of Ethics states “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received, and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.” If the patrons don’t protest this resolution, I hope that the local librarians would stand up against it.

Another reason I dislike this situation is how it has the potential to stifle expression and use of the public library. Public libraries, at their best, function as a public forum and community center. It is a place to connect with other people. If people choose not to go to the library due to disagreement with its policies or fear having their viewing/reading choices judged, the whole community suffers.

This brings me to the final major reason I dislike this resolution. It is too vague. The probability of libel is high. Who will determine what is porn? Opinions are varied about the definition of porn. Is it only total nudity? or fully clothed adults sharing an intense kiss? or pictures of a naked boob illustrating a breast cancer exam? Also, is there a computer noting down each violation or is a librarian expected to do so? Either way, there’s way too wide a margin of  error.

Didn’t public shaming go out of style around the time stockades were used as kindling? Although some studies do support it as a valid deterrent to crime, I don’t believe this resolution will have the desired effect. Now, don’t get me wrong! I don’t support looking at porn, especially not when you’re at the public library. However, there are more effective and legal ways to discourage such activity. Rather than implementing such a draconian resolution, the city might have investigated the following:

  1. spending money to hire additional librarians to assist and supervise computer use
  2. a different room arrangement that angled computer monitors toward staff areas
  3. a public accountability campaign in which immediate social disapproval discourages porn-viewing

The resolution is being reviewed by legal counsel right now. Let’s hope they find the error in this sort of thinking.

City of Quincy, MA
Thomas Crane Public Library

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About shortlibrarian

I am a woman working in the Twin Cities as a programming Librarian.
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One Response to Posting the Names of Porn Viewers

  1. Awesome post, I will be sure to recommend to friends!

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