The article on libraries and Internet sex sites failed to deal with a glaring contradiction in library policies ["At Libraries, Little Worry Over Sex Sites on the Web," Metro, July 15]. While libraries are not handing out copies of Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler to patrons of all ages, they apparently have no problem if someone views the same material on their computers. The "solution" of installing privacy screens makes libraries look more like adult bookstore peep shows than educational institutions.
The advent of new technologies has not always caused libraries to abdicate their responsibilities. Let us compare the Internet with cable television. Cable offers some wonderfully educational programming on PBS, Discovery, C-SPAN and the various news channels. If libraries were to subscribe to cable TV as an educational resource, would people be crying "censorship" if the libraries did not make all of the channels available to all of their patrons, including the Playboy Channel and other sexually oriented networks?
And while many libraries have been carrying videotapes for quite a while, I know of none distributing X-rated material. If the libraries can (as they should) be selective about the books, magazines and videos they circulate, they must be just as diligent about the Internet.
The Internet is an educational resource, but it is also a dangerous place. Let us use it responsibly.
Kudos to Daniel LeDuc for a balanced, sensible article about Internet use in public libraries. In our library, we advise patrons that they are in a public setting and provide them with a Nova privacy desk that keeps the monitor submerged below the desk surface. (Our older users love this desk, too, because it's bifocal-friendly!) That's it -- and we haven't had a complaint or a problem.
As a public library director, my philosophy is that if a naked tree falls in the forest, I can't see it. We don't snoop on patrons, and we don't ask patrons how they plan to use information, no matter where they find it. Since filters inevitably block constitutionally protected speech and libraries are in the business of providing universal access to information, we chose not to filter, and we haven't regretted that decision.
KAREN G. SCHNEIDER