June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:38 PM
"Two South Whidbey women bravely went public last week with complaints that they had seen pornography while visiting the Freeland Library. Sad to say, the same thing could, and probably has, happened at Sno-Isle's many other library branches in Island and Snohomish counties.Sno-Isle's board of directors, which apparently meets in some ivy covered tower at the headquarters in Marysville, decided that barring pornographic Internet Web sites from library access would be a form of censorship. This caused some public concern, so a compromise of sorts was reached in which at least one computer at each library would be equipped with software to filter out porn sites. This way, those adamantly against viewing porn would have a place to use the Internet.The remaining computers are fitted with privacy screens, which make the monitors difficult for anyone other than the user to view. Obviously, the two women's experiences in Freeland show that the privacy screens aren't adequate. In both cases, they inadvertently saw porn that was being viewed by men sitting at the computer terminal.However, the issue here is not the efficacy of privacy screens. The issue is that the Sno-Isle board freely allows access to pornographic Web sites in its publicly funded libraries. This policy is itself obscene. Parents can no longer send their children to the library knowing it's a safe, decent, educational place to spend an hour or two. Other kids could well be looking at porn sites, as could any adult, including the proverbial and possibly dangerous dirty old man.Hundreds of South Whidbey citizens have volunteered untold hours and dollars to help provide excellent libraries in Freeland, Langley and Clinton. Not one of those volunteers ever said they were working to make porn available to the men, women and children of Island County. All three libraries are staffed by excellent, caring people, who are saddled with carrying out this indefensible porn policy adopted by the board.The fact is, porn should not be available to anyone at the public libraries. If Internet filtering software means some legitimate research sites are blocked out, that's too bad. The research can be done elsewhere or, if worse comes to worse, the researcher can check out a book.If the Sno-Isle board does not change its Internet porn policy, the library system, beloved by thousands in Island County, could quickly lose public support. Since Sno-Isle depends on voter-approved property taxes to survive, this issue if unresolved is a threat to our library system."