By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News
A handful of people weighed in on the London Public Library Board’s regular Internet service policy review Thursday (Oct. 27). While there was one delegate who wanted the policy changed to disallow viewing objectionable material on public computers, three quarters of presenters said change wasn't necessary.
This process is done annually, with the formal discussion taking place every November. But, this year it became heated after one delegate, Megan Walker, executive director the London Abused Women's Centre, recommended the banning of pornography in libraries, namely through installing filters on all computers.
Currently, computers only used by youth and for job searching have filters. Library staff also physically monitor what's viewed and only 10 complaints of patrons viewing objectionable material were recorded last year.
No discussion between board members took place following the four delegations, which included Walker. But, all information gathered from Thursday’s speakers and from written statements submitted to the board will be included in a report given to members for consideration during the official review on Nov. 24.
Josh Morgan, chair of the library board, said it was great for the community to come out and engage the board and he expects to see more comments.
“We’ve already received a number of written submissions that we received at our September meeting, that we’ll receive tonight as part of our consent items and I’m sure we’ll have a number of others that will be received between now and the next board meeting,” he said.
Walker’s presentation to the library board was similar to the one she gave to the London city council just over two months ago. Walker said she presented it to the city in hopes of garndering council support, which she did receive unanimously.
With that support, she said she’s hoping the library board seriously looks at her cause.
“It’s hard for me to imagine getting council’s unanimous support and they are the funder, and that there wouldn’t be some influence that way,” she said.
However, the other three presenters were against installing Internet filters.
Sarah Simpkin, a library and information science student at the University of Western Ontario, said she was adamantly against the idea.
Simpkin, who was also representing the London Chapter of the Progressive Librarian’s Guild, said that censoring public computers isn’t an effective solution to solving the social issue objectionable material being viewed.
“The idea of deploying Internet filtering software on public access computers violates both the Canadian Library Association’s and the American Library Association’s core values on intellectual freedom and access to information,” Simpkin said.
Although she recognized that sometimes library patrons may inadvertently view offensive material on another’s computer, there are other solutions that don’t include censorship.
She said these include functional privacy screens and better monitoring by staff.
“Ultimately, we remain uncomfortable with the idea of taking social responsibility off the individual and placing it in the hands of third-party software,” she added.