Does this happen at your library? Would you be okay with it? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 94 Old 04-09-2010, 10:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My husband and I took our children (7, 3, and 1) to the library for the first time a few days ago. When we first walked into the children's section (it's own room off the rest of the library) I noticed that there were computers along the wall with teenagers surfing the web, seemed a little weird but I didn't think much of it and passed right by. We played for a while and read some books in the back and then my kids went over to the couch directly across from computers to play with some toys and read the other books. We had been there for a minute reading when I looked up and saw that one of the teens was watching a Marilyn Manson video on youtube that seemed to be mostly tight shots of women's butts in thongs and fishnets. It also seemed to include people licking and rubbing each other. It was quite shocking to me to see this playing right over my children's heads (thank goodness they were facing me and not the computers!) and right at their eye level. I got up and took my kids back to the area we were in before and my husband went and talked to the librarian. She said it's a public library and they can really only restrict so much . We grabbed our books and went out to the main desk to check out. We told the librarian out there about it and she was pretty disgusted and agreed that the computers in the kids area should not be open to that sort of thing. She said she would talk to the branch manager, gave me her number and we've been playing phone tag ever since. I won't go back there as long as the set up remains the same, we don't watch tv specifically because of that type of thing and I won't allow my kids to be exposed to it, but I am curious about what other parents think about this. No one else seemed to notice or care, or seemed to have complained before...... so is this just expected at the library???

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#2 of 94 Old 04-09-2010, 10:23 PM
 
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I would not be ok with that either. Surely there are other computers in the library that teenagers can use for that sort of thing. There are often older kids / teens on the computers in our children's section, but they're usually playing games. I think I'd probably react the same way you did.

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#3 of 94 Old 04-09-2010, 10:30 PM
 
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I personally wouldn't be ok with it either but quite honestly I am surprised. We're at our library often and there is a bold "code of conduct" type thing posted regarding computer use, and any "questionable" material is not permitted. Basically, the computers are for research, kids' games and those sort of things. Their screens are also all facing the librarians' desks.

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#4 of 94 Old 04-09-2010, 10:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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These were facing the librarians desk as well, but were maybe 15 feet down from it. When my husband told her she said she would "take a walk and see what's up" then she proceeded to wait until the girl was done watching the video to get up and look . I was totally shocked as well, I just couldn't even speak....... I understand that it's a public place and they are public computers but.... in the kids section?? I know it was just stuff that is shown on TV but still, it was not appropriate for the kids section IMO and youtube has WAY worse stuff so at what point is the line drawn?

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#5 of 94 Old 04-09-2010, 10:45 PM
 
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We have 3 branches in our city of 100,000. All of them have the computers restricted in the kids sectin to kids programming and games. The adult use ones are tucked away in the reference area of the adult section.
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#6 of 94 Old 04-09-2010, 11:24 PM
 
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Where I livethe kids computers don'teven have internet access...just preloaded games, nickjr programs and stuff likethat. I don't believe in censorship in general but I would expect that unmonitored interne access would be somewhere that my toddler doesn't have to wtch it. Those kids should have been using theadult computers.

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#7 of 94 Old 04-09-2010, 11:40 PM
 
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No, that would not happen in our library. We have a very large children's room and an attached little room with 4 computers for children, and they do not access the internet at all. They have very tame and simple computer games for preschoolers and young elementary children only.

I think you should send a formal letter of complaint to both the main library, the branch you were at and any and all higher ups that you can find. Complaints in writing are noticed.
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#8 of 94 Old 04-09-2010, 11:50 PM
 
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Wouldn't bother me, but then I've seen much worse at the highschool where I taught. I think our job as parents is to explain to our kids that some things are not ok; to share our values. Not to shield them completely.

But then I abhor censorship.

Plus I like the fact that the teens feel comfortable enough to hang out in the kids section where there is more supervision overall. If they were in the adult section they would probably be looking at porn...which wouldn't be your problem but would be a problem overall.
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#9 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 01:13 AM
 
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If they were in the adult section they would probably be looking at porn...
We all have our own take on things, but what was described sounds like soft porn to me.

I have a friend who studied library science. I remember her talking about how hard it was with the library needing to be a resource for people and not censor, and her trying to uphold her morals. She hated the fact that if a kid wanted to check out porn magazines, she'd have to check them out to them.

I agree that what you saw was inappropriate. I would take my kids elsewhere too. From what my friend said a few years ago when in school I'd almost think their hands are tied about this, but maybe not. Perhaps they would be able to regulate the kids section access.

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#10 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 01:24 AM
 
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I would not have a problem with it. Honestly DS is clueless as to what is on other peoples computer screens at the library. I fight and advocate for the library and our library hours. (i just had a thread in TOA about this) and I love that our library has kids computers with internet access. Quite honestly you can not control what others do, you can only control what you and your kids do. I hate censorship.

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#11 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 01:35 AM
 
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Our library has preteen/teen/youngadult books and materials in a separate room from the picture books and such. So pretty much only children under 11 or 12 yo are in the main children's section. The teen books are right next to the main children's section but clearly separate. The older kids can enjoy their graffic novels and such with out little kids bouncing up and down around them, and the little kids are free to pull anything off the shelf without too much worry about it being appropriate.

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#12 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 01:40 AM
 
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It wouldn't bother me.
The computers in our kids section of the library have only the preloaded kid games, like Magic School Bus and that sort .. no internet access.

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#13 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 02:11 AM
 
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Our library actually has computers with signs marked "Children" and "Teen"

I guess I have never noticed if the 'adult' computers are actually marked 'adult.'

I am fairly sure I can't use my son's (5 YO) library card number on an 'adult' computer.

The kids' computers have internet access, but I have no idea how limited it is. (I would think the computers are labeled in part because of restrictions, I know another reason is the kids' computers are only available for half-hour slots after school.)

I don't know if "teen" computers would have some restrictions that "adult" don't have?

I also think part of the reason it's divided up the way it is, labeled, time-usage restrictions and all, is to guarantee that all ages *can* have access--I.E. there are computers available for adults to use between the hours of 3 and 6 PM...

and absolutely 100% I WOULD complain about my children being able to see that in a children's toy room at the library!

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#14 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 03:18 AM
 
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Our library has clear sections for kids' computers -- they have only kids' games and stories loaded on them. No surfing allowed.

Teens/adults can use another area.

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#15 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 09:39 AM
 
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I work in a library and actually work directly with the director, so this has been a discussion we've had before. I won grant money last year to put in a whole teen section with 10 computers.

One of the problems with censorship is that it's subjective. What is offensive to you, may not be offensive to someone else. Unless there is nudity involved, I don't think a library can legally censor it.

It would be the same if a white supremacist came in to work on his neo-nazi website... offensive for most, but not illegal. I wouldn't want my dd seeing anything on that screen, but it's my job to keep her away from that, not the library's. The same goes for violent online gaming. It has to be allowed, but I certainly don't want my dd seeing people getting their heads chopped off.

So to answer your question, NO, I wouldn't be OK with my dd observing that, but since it's a public place, barring actual pornography (with nudity), I'm not OK with censorship, either. Yes, there need to be some rules, but it's a slippery slope.

I think your only recourse would be to ask that the furniture arranged so the screens be turned toward walls and not facing out to the public. That being said, then the librarians would probably hear from the parents of teens because with the monitors toward the walls, there will be zero supervision and they will be able to hide TRUE pornography or inappropriate surfing because there is no way for the staff to monitor the screens. See, there's no good way to make everyone happy. FTR - we have web filters and do not allow pornography by blocking. Pretty much everything else is fair game.

Oh, and at the library where I work, we also have the AWE computers that have just children's programs on them. Those are on the CHILDREN'S side of the department and the computers for the teens (which children and adults are welcome to use, though) is in the Young Adult section. You also can't legally segregate in public libraries.

If computers are for public use, they have to be open for anybody, in any area. They can "call" an area "Adult Computer Area" and "Teen Computer Area", but they can't tell a teen they can't work on a computer in the Adult area. It's a compliance issue for public libraries. They have to have some minimum internet safety policies in place on ALL the computers. This is called CIPA certification (you can google for it). Look up E-Rate Certification, too. This the the whole "non discrimination" policy that public libraries have to follow in order to get your tax dollars. HTH!
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#16 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 10:06 AM
 
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My mother was on the library board when I was in high school or college and this sort of thing is a huge PITA to the school board. If they put filter software on the computers you have parents coming in raising a huge stink about censorship. Plus the filter software doesn't catch everything and sometimes it catches too much. What if a student has a report to do for school about STDs and the filter doesn't allow access to any content containing the word sex or sexual.

There is no perfect filter software, libraries and library boards are usually very very sensitive about censorship and usually rather anti censorship.

I think when my mom was there they decided to put filters on the computers in the children's section and turn the computers so the screen was in view of the whole room. This of course caused issues they had to resolve because the library had strict rules stating that kids under a certain age were never allowed to use the computers in the adult section (so kids needing to do research papers sometimes couldn't do it). So they decided to occasionally allowing kids on the computers in the adult section for a specific, justifiable reason. They then had issues with different librarians enforcing it differently, some kids plain lying about what they needed the computer for, and a lot of general complaining "Well, why does he get to use the computers in the adult section?"

I think they finally resolved it by designating three computer stations. The children's section had computers that had filters, the adolescent section had computers with minimal filters but the computers were where the librarian could easily see the screens, and the adult section was restricted to only adults with minimal filters and computers orientated for privacy. But there was significant cost involved in the purchase of the new computers and in the remodeling to make room for the new area.

So basically, the most common solution in libraries is to turn the computers so the monitor is visible to the whole room. That really eliminates 90% of the inappropriate content viewing on those computers from kids self censoring. It also allows the librarian to see and monitor what is being done on the computers to a certain extent. Then all kids under a certain age are only allowed on those computers in full view of the room.

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#17 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 10:13 AM
 
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At our library, the screens are set down into the desktops so only the person using the computer can see what is on it. It seems that rather than censoring content, having screens that are visible only to the user might be a better solution.

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#18 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 11:15 AM
 
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Our library has different areas for computers. The ones near the kids' section are just for games, I believe. But you also have to walk past some of the adult/teen computers to get to the kid section. I've noticed people watching videos on youtube, but haven't really paid attention to what was on.

I do think they'd discourage that at our library, but I don't even know the rules as we don't use the computers there.
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#19 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 11:54 AM
 
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This would bother me, I don't want my 4 year old seeing a Marilyn Manson video like you described.

I don't think it needs to be a censorship issue, though... just better arrangement of the computers.

There are no computers or screens at all in our two children's library rooms. There must be computers in the library but I guess they are downstairs somewhere. Honestly I'd want privacy at my computer - not because I'd be looking at sexual content but I don't like the whole world looking at what I'm reading or typing, even if it's just a letter to my mom. Lord knows I'd offend plenty of people just by surfing MDC in public (hot topiics like breastfeeding, circumcision, etc.).

I think everyone can be satisfied by a better setup, and that's what I'd push for. Even if they can't move the computers to a dedicated room or section, if they are pushed against the wall and facing out into the room, they can reverse it so the monitors face the wall and there is a bit of a space between the tables and the wall for people to sit. Better privacy for the computer users, and no risk of shocking or disturbing anyone trying to have a wholesome experience at the library.

You can say "well, if you don't like it, then leave" but video is so sudden and intrusive that you can be disturbed with no warning. You could glance up and see someone working on a word document, fine. And then a minute later someone walks in the room, you glance up, and out of the corner of your eye you see porn or a violent image on the monitor now. That will be burned into your mind, and certainly your kid's, through no fault of your own. And it's stressful to always have to be on guard like that. You should be able to go to your public library and feel safe. Not by censorship but just reasonable arrangements. If the library has porn magazines, fine, they aren't intrusive because you'll have to actually go over and look at them. (Assuming they don't display the covers on table as you walk in of course!!). You won't look at them unless you want to. Videos should be the same way, not displayed for everyone to see, but in a way where you'd decide "I want to use a computer" and go there.

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#20 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 11:56 AM
 
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The computers in the kids section have strong filters and are for kids only (adults are not allowed to use them). both kids and adults are allowed to use other computers in the library at any time. However you are limited to 20 minutes a day per library card (so if you can round up your kids cards you can log in on their account) and at the Main branch you have to sign up early in the day for a spot usually. Even in the kids section I remember we would get their an hour early to sign up for a 15 minute slot of computer time. it is hard to get into too much trouble in 15-20 minutes....

also the computers at our library face a wall and have deviders in between them. volume has to stay down so the person next to you or the librarian cannot hear it. So regardless of what people might be pulling up on the computer I wouldn't really mind. it would be hard for my child to be exposed to it for more than a quick second. There are lots and lots of things in the library I do not want my kids to be exposed to. random computer images are really low on the list of things I sheild my kids from in the library.

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#21 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by JayGee View Post
At our library, the screens are set down into the desktops so only the person using the computer can see what is on it. It seems that rather than censoring content, having screens that are visible only to the user might be a better solution.
I agree. At our library, the computers are all in the middle of the library, so you just have to deal because people could see, and I do have to walk my kid past, but hey, it's not displayed right to the kids trying to read in the kids' section!

I'm all for not censoring at the library. Libraries are some of the only institutions that stood up to the patriot act garbage about reporting books read by individuals.... but at the same time, kids deserve to have a safe, age-appropriate space in the library.
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#22 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 12:49 PM
 
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I would not have a problem with it. Honestly DS is clueless as to what is on other peoples computer screens at the library. I fight and advocate for the library and our library hours. (i just had a thread in TOA about this) and I love that our library has kids computers with internet access. Quite honestly you can not control what others do, you can only control what you and your kids do. I hate censorship.
This. It is also illegal to censor someone based on age, even minors. It is a constant struggle in the library world. We also have the issue of the Children's Internet Protection Act. Under this act, our library DOES have to provide some sort of internet filtering because we use federal funding to help pay for our internet access. That being said, we also have a password that overrides the filter if a patron really wants to look at anything. I have yet to have a patron actually ask me to override the filter to look at porn.

The op's situation would not have happened in our library because the children's computers are not hooked up to the internet, although someday I would very much like to do so. There are a great number of resources for children on the Web that would be wonderful for them to have access to. Is it possible that the teens that were on the computers in the children's area not supposed to be on them?

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#23 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 12:55 PM
 
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velochic is correct in the information provided.
library computers and access to the internet ARE filtered. Libraries can choose to have unfiltered access computers in a specially designated "adult" area, or they can unfilter general use computers upon request if all age groups have access to them. computers in children's and teen areas ARE filtered. Do as velochic suggested and read more about CIPA. (Children's internet protection act)
In some libraries, depending on the setup, adults vs. children and teens internet acess computers are filtered differently (according to whether the library receives e rate funding covered under CIPA, and almost all of them do, minors have to have restricted/filtered access only).
sounds to me like the problem is in the physical set up of the library. if you complain enough, it will probably get results. libraries can move computers around or purchase carrels (or like someone else posted, those desks that the monitors are set into allowing only one user to view them). those aren't extremely expensive in the grand scheme of things and it's worth suggesting these measures when you complain.
likely staff are already aware of this problem, and you are more than likely not the first person to complain about it. sometimes it takes input from patrons to get something changed as budgets are crazy tight in the library world these days- closures and layoffs loom large. it's probably something they've been wanting to change, anyway, i'd be willing to bet.
many libraries have a separate teen area, especially as the reading material for children and teens is so dramatically different. plus, teens in a library setting tend to behave a little differently than the smaller ones- plus the programming is different. even in the very small rural branch near my house, there is a separate area for teens & children.
if you want to change this, some advice: do as pp's suggested, write a formal letter to the director and the regional director if there is one.
find out if there is a "friends of the library" group. if so, show up at a meeting, join if you like, but bring up the suggestion of making the computers more private. Often the friends group will raise money for things like that. Find a librarian who seems approachable and chat about it- he or she may tell you that something like what needs to happen with those is in the works, or indicate to you what else you can do to get that situation changed. Most librarians want you to be happy and satisfied with your library experience!!!!!
(sorry for the novel)
also- librarians are not in the business of policing what patrons are viewing. Turning computers so that librarians can monitor them seems very contrary to what most librarians/libraries believe and support. It is very unlikely that a librarian will supervise what anyone is viewing. We're not generally supportive of that kind of censorship- that's why most of the time we rely on discreet positioning of monitors, etc.

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#24 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 01:38 PM
 
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It wouldn't bother me, it's a part of living in this kind of society. If my children were to ask me something about what they are seeing, I'd welcome the opportunity to discuss the music industry/entertainment industry and how profit driven they are...or even that different people enjoy looking at different things. I am TOTALLY against censorship, so frankly, if you are uncomfortable, I feel it is your job to remove yourself/your children from the situation.

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#25 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 02:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Who's talking censorship? Is it outrageous to ask that teens and adults use computers that are not in the children's area? I don't care what those people look at away from my kids but why is it right where the kids can see? Would it inconvenience them to have the computers turned around or moved? I'd hate to see filters on the computers, what if I wanted to show my kids a birth video?

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#26 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 02:37 PM
 
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Who's talking censorship? Is it outrageous to ask that teens and adults use computers that are not in the children's area? I don't care what those people look at away from my kids but why is it right where the kids can see? Would it inconvenience them to have the computers turned around or moved? I'd hate to see filters on the computers, what if I wanted to show my kids a birth video?
Yes, it might HIGHLY inconvenience them to move the computers. That can cost a lot of money and public libraries are totally strapped for cash.

The computers are for public use. And let's be honest, anyone can go anywhere in a library. An older child might bring younger sibling along to the library and use the teen area. Mom might want to check her email in the adult area and not want to leave her 4 year old by herself in the children's department.

There is simply no way to avoid everything that might be offensive to your eyes in a library.

Yes, it's outrageous to ask that teens and adults not use computers that are for public use that are in the children's department. Public computers, public use. If you want them moved, talk to the director. Be prepared for him/her to explain to you how much of the budget that would take and see if you're willing to raise the funds to have the computers moved, though.
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#27 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 03:23 PM
 
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Yes, it might HIGHLY inconvenience them to move the computers. That can cost a lot of money and public libraries are totally strapped for cash.

The computers are for public use. And let's be honest, anyone can go anywhere in a library. An older child might bring younger sibling along to the library and use the teen area. Mom might want to check her email in the adult area and not want to leave her 4 year old by herself in the children's department.

There is simply no way to avoid everything that might be offensive to your eyes in a library.

Yes, it's outrageous to ask that teens and adults not use computers that are for public use that are in the children's department. Public computers, public use. If you want them moved, talk to the director. Be prepared for him/her to explain to you how much of the budget that would take and see if you're willing to raise the funds to have the computers moved, though.



I agree with this ...if you were in the adult section with your kids looking for a book for yourself and saw this would you demand they move it
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#28 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 05:02 PM
 
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Originally Posted by KristaDJ View Post
Who's talking censorship? Is it outrageous to ask that teens and adults use computers that are not in the children's area? I don't care what those people look at away from my kids but why is it right where the kids can see? Would it inconvenience them to have the computers turned around or moved? I'd hate to see filters on the computers, what if I wanted to show my kids a birth video?
What if the tables were turned and a mainstream parent complained about seeing a birth video that you were showing your kids at the library?

For all we know the girl was gathering information for a music class about different genre's or how music videos have changed over the past 20 years. IDK what the girl was doing, there is no way to know what she was doing, nor does it matter.

Velochic is correct about funding and while the library can 'say' an area is Kids, teen, adult etc they need to allow all ages access to all areas. So if my 9 yr old wants to work in the adult area he can or if I want to work on the kids computers next to him I can do that as well.

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#29 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 05:37 PM
 
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Our libraries separate the kids and teenager areas and have computers for each age group in those areas. I don't know if they police the material there and I really don't care because I think it is our job as parents to censor material. Our library does have separate areas for adults and kids and they limit the computers in the kid area to 18 and younger.

My dd has seen some things that I don't view as appropriate and we talk about them. Now that she can read she reads a lot of things that I would rather she didn't read when we are in line to get groceries or browsing movies at the Red Box. If you go out in society you are just bound to see things that don't fit well into your family. I find that discussing them with my dd, my point of view and hers, then moving on works very well. These things really don't have much of an effect on her life. If your library can set up a teenage area for computers then hopefully they will do that. It doesn't sound like you guys are really that in to the library anyways if that was your first visit so it shouldn't affect your life that much if it is your only one.
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#30 of 94 Old 04-10-2010, 06:25 PM
 
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in addition to the tome i posted previously, i have to say:
i am a librarian, and i personally think that there's something wrong with a setup where teens can view videos that parents don't want little kids to see where little kids can see them. public spaces ARE public spaces, but no one should have to view what other people are looking at on the computer screens. that is a problem.
if the poster of the question had been offended by reading material on the shelves, that's an entirely different matter- that is censorship.
having a problem with one's own children (not other people's) being exposed to - for example-the softcore porn that is the music video industry, and feeling as though the library should be set up so that what people view on the internet remains private is just plain sensible, in my opinion.

also, the teens in question likewise should be able to read information without other people seeing. for example, a GLBT teen might be seeking information that cannot be accessed in a high school or middle school library. would that person want to look at information about being out, for example, if other people could see and that teen was shy or in a repressive family or community?

(and.. you guys.. the filters are ALREADY there. on the computers in your library. just ask if you don't believe me...)

Is it getting lonely in the echo chamber yet?

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