“We are a publicly funded institution. It is crazy to think that we should be required to use tax dollars to allow open access to Internet pornography or to become illegal casinos.” — Director Dean Marney, of the North Central Regional Library (Washington state)
My right to express myself — as in publishing this blog — does not mean the rest of America has to pay for it. Nor does my right to practice religion mean the taxpayer has to build a church for me. I can do those things on my own, and to the best of my ability.
Neither must libraries offer access to porn.
The ACLU is suing the North Central Regional Library for blocking access to porn sites through its filtering system (see story). Essentially, the ACLU contends that communities have no right to function as communities, that libraries have no right to set priorities.
I have always believed the right to be a citizen among a group, a self-willed body, is constitutional. The ACLU argues otherwise.
“Public libraries are a valuable resource for all people in their community. Unlike with books and other printed materials, finances do not limit libraries from providing the vast array of useful information available on the Internet. Libraries should not limit the opportunity of adults to view research articles and other lawful materials,” said ACLU of Washington legal director Sarah Dunne (source).
Forcing libraries to offer porn (or gambling, etc.), however, is a limitation. Libraries have only so many computers, only so much physical space. Somehow, libraries — guided by their communities — have to decide what appears on shelves and on computer screens. Or, is the ACLU saying libraries must offer EVERYTHING? If so, we will have to build libraries the size of stadiums.
No, communities have the right to set goals and priorities — and the process is democratic. It should be honored, not subverted by the ACLU and its overwrought ideas of personal liberty.