Thirteen and a quarter miles west on 275/92 aka W. Center Road from my former home in the Omaha suburb of Millard, is the little Nebraska town of Yutan. I'm referring to my Millard home where I planned to raise my sons and live the rest of my life. I loved that house on the lot backing up to the greenbelt where I could watch swallows flying loop-de-loops and awaken owls in the trees along the creek. Life took different loop-de-loops.
Doin's in Yutan aren't usually front page news, but "Break-ins to view porn raise issues: Yutan officials, library debating legality of using Web filters on computers for public use" was printed on page 1A of the Lincoln Journal Star last Tuesday. Five times in the last three weeks two young teens, ages thirteen and fifteen, have picked the lock to enter the library after hours to view porn on the Web. The Yutan library shut off all internet access until the library board purchases filters for the computers.
Nobody wants kids to see online porn, especially at their public library. Does that mean libraries shouldn't have public access internet computers? No. Does that mean libraries must have filters on their public access internet computers? No. Does that mean libraries should have better locks on their doors to protect their materials, records, and equipment after hours? You betcha.
The Yutan Public Library is only open 26 hours a week, and has a staff of two half-time employees. Over half of the town residents are library users. Are those residents flocking to the library to view porn during regular hours? Of course not. They are likely using the internet to get the trade-in value of their F-150s, research the genealogy of the Hillvandelmer family, find better deals on auto insurance (especially with that cute lizard), view Doppler weather radar, learn about the life cycle of our friend the beaver, ponder trendy baby names, find lyrics to that Creedence Clearwater Revival song about the "bathroom on the right", analyze regional variations in sloppy joe ingredients, and verify the legal drinking age in each of our fifty states just like you and me.
Must a library limit the access of these regular internet users during normal business hours to prevent the illegal after-hours viewing by petty teen criminals who, GASP, leave their 7-11 Slurpees next to the computer when they flee? That would be like tossing out all the Snickers bars from the freezer next to the cooler containing cartons of live bait just because some kid drove off without paying for a tank of unleaded at pump #3. It just doesn't make sense.
Yutan doesn't need internet filters. What Yutan needs is a boys' band! Let's call in Professor Harold Hill:
Well, either you're closing your eyes
To a situation you do now wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of a library computer in your community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say,
trouble right here in River City.
Why sure I'm a internet user,
Certainly mighty proud I say
I'm always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend
With a mouse in my hand are golden...
We've surely got trouble!
Right here in Yutan!
Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule!
© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder