Saturday, April 30, 2011

Porn in Public Libraries

I have one more post on the wedding in the works, maybe two if Lucy Locket's husband is allowed to tell about his day, but otherwise back to normal around here.


What about porn in public libraries?  The New York Public Library, to be precise:

I’m hardly an anti-porn crusader, but the list of reasons why libraries didn’t — and shouldn’t — carry porn is vast. The two most obvious and mutually reinforcing reasons are moralistic and budgetary: (a) “It’s wrong,” and (b) “We have very limited resources and we must choose what we think is worthwhile and what has no redeeming value.”
The problem is that the legs have been knocked out from under both answers. Of course, the moralistic — or “judgmental” — bias against porn has been eroding for generations. How bad or good a development that is depends on your point of view.
But until the Internet, it didn’t matter. Sure, Playboy might make it through, “for the articles.” But not even the most radical or deranged librarian could ever justify subscribing to Juggs over National Geographic, because in a world of limited resources, prudential editing is not merely valuable, it’s unavoidable.

The Internet changed all that. The marginal cost of obtaining pornographic materials in libraries, once prohibitively high, is now nearly nonexistent. In fact, it’s actually cheaper just to let it all flood in. Who wants to deal with the filters, blockers, and monitors? Just proclaim that the First Amendment requires unfettered access to porn. 

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