Working in the youth services department means there are many requests to use the computer for games and internet access. The youngest children of what must be no more than 5 years old always amaze me at how easily they navigate the fun games provided. Talk about the Digital Divide! The older children already have homework assignments and projects. What I also notice is how many of the kids are usually on the internet without an adult next to them to provide some guidance. Yet, I continue to ask myself if these kids really need an adult next to them to monitor their usage since they are in what is considered a safe place, the youth computer area. This had me thinking of the debate among librarians and patrons alike about filtering the internet in the library. How far does freedom of information and access really reach?
I am reminded of a situation proposed by a former professor. She provided an example of a child being abused at home and asking the librarian for help. I have no doubt that computers and internet access play a role in that search for help. This raises the question of not only just how much privacy the child is entitled, but also how filtering affects this child’s ability to research for help.
Reading this posting by David Lee King on his blog, had me asking the same questions he does. Then I have to ask what happened to access of information? Despite the objections we may have against what people are looking at on the internet, they should be able to access the information they desire. That’s what makes our country so great, is because we do have access to all kinds of information and the right to make our own decisions about what we read and see.
A commenter on this post brought up a great point that libraries do filter through collection development, policies, etc. Yet, a physical collection can only be so big fitting the size of the building and the means of the library, so not every material can possibly be purchased. We as selectors need to be sure we are addressing a diverse point of view or at least making the attempt. We also need to be sure that we meet the needs of the community served. Does this entail ‘filtering’ our collections? If the intention is to filter because a librarian doesn’t agree with an idea, then yes. If it’s a matter of cost and space, then no.
There are no easy answers to these questions and no easy solution. I could probably write an entire dissertation about the subject. What I find myself comparing are the banning of books and filtering. While they raise many of the same issues, the reach of the internet and the role in our daily lives makes this issue so much more complicated.
For more about Banned Books Week, which starts on Sept. 24th, check out ALA’s robust resource page. I personally love reading banned books, but I was always a bit rebellious! Enjoy.