The movement to build public lending libraries was intended to bring literacy to the masses. Back when Andrew Carnegie donated his millions for the construction of buildings to house books, there was a notion that the poor who couldn't afford to buy books could find knowledge and the means to improve their lives.
Does anyone use the library to get their hands on a free book anymore?
Libraries are places for kids to go after school because no one is home, sort of a free baby-sitting service that turns librarians into study hall monitors.
The homeless find libraries useful because they are quiet and warm. If you need a place to sleep, it beats the streets.
You can borrow music of all sorts from a library. You can borrow DVDs and watch old movies, new movies, television programs, travel shows, and all sorts of things that you'd otherwise have to pay for if you used Netflix.
More and more, libraries are a place for the public to have access to computers and the Internet because those are a couple of fairly expensive luxuries, especially when you don't have a job. The job hunting function of public libraries often surpasses the book lending function.
Still, all those books. All those representations of an American's right to speak freely without government censorship. Libraries are now at the forefront of a debate on what constitutes that free speech and what constitutes an offense to the community in which the library and its computer terminals sit.
The suburb of Orland Park, Illinois, is in the midst of such a debate. It doesn't seem to have all that much to do with free speech, however. It's more about free online pornography.
Anyone can sit at the computer in the Orland Park library and bring up whatever they like, and that includes online pornography.
Mothers who bring their children to the library to introduce them to the marvels of reading are less than pleased to see men hunched over computer screens, entranced by images that the mothers deem obscene. They don't want their little ones to be exposed to filth, and they sure don't want their teenage sons to be wandering through the library and catch a glimpse of smut. They want the Internet access to be filtered so that porn doesn't stream in so very public a place.
The library, however, is all about free speech and, apparently, free porn falls into that category. When the complaints came in, they were brushed aside as violations of First Amendment rights. It's not as if some creep was masturbating right there in public, and none of the mothers went into the men's room to see if there was anything lewd going on so they had no proof that the children were being harmed.
Those mothers vote, however, and the mayor of Orland Park has now weighed in. He informed the library board's president that it was perfectly legal for the library to limit access to porn on the public computers, and if someone really wanted to watch it, they had only to ask a librarian to remove the restriction. In other words, the mayor told the library to install filters and stop making the town look stupid because it's not healthy for anyone's political health.
If you want to watch pornography at Orland Park Public Library in the future, you'll have to go ask the librarian.
You'll have all your First Amendment rights. It's the right to privacy that was once enjoyed that has to go away.
Never underestimate the determination of a woman with children and an agenda. Porn-loving men don't stand a chance.