The in Box
I am very disappointed by Michael Banks' feature article in the March issue, but not primarily because I disagree with his conclusions (though I do). I appreciate the benefits of the point/counterpoint format you chose, and I welcome hearing differing viewpoints on this very difficult issue. But why did you select an author who is not a librarian, and who has no apparent background in librarianship? Surely you could have found someone with a profiltering position who also has professional library credentials; someone able to examine this issue within the context of our profession's longstanding commitment to intellectual freedom.
His lack of perspective weakens his arguments considerably, and when he goes so far as to list Cybersitter as "among the better [filters] available" he loses credibility, as that particular software has been criticized by most as inappropriate for any library.
As long as the title of your generally fine publication remains Computers in Libraries, I hope you'll strive to ensure that the information you present shows greater understanding of professional concerns. Fortunately you paired Banks' article with Harry Willems', which was fair, well-balanced, and fully aware of the difficulties inherent in relying on censorship tools.
Christopher Jackson Reference Librarian Monroe County Public Library, Ellettsville, IN Editor's Reply:
In the September 1997 issue of Computers in Libraries (p. 58) we listed a new title from Coriolis that was authored by Michael Banks. The book, Web Psychos, Stalkers, and Pranksters, covers the threats to personal privacy, suggests how users should protect themselves, and reviews various schemes and frauds on the Web. Michael Banks thanked me by e-mail for the publication notice, and I invited him to contribute an article on security for the March issue of CIL. Banks book The Internet Unplugged was recently published by Pemberton Press.
As information professionals, librarians uphold First Amendment rights and the value of different perspectives on controversial issues. Our personal opinions do not always coincide with the norms of our communities. As we look at ethical issues such as pornography on the Internet and the use of filters, we need to examine all aspects before we proceed with policy creation. In so doing we must be open to the views of constituents and "outside" experts.
Michael Banks is a respected and knowledgeable writer whose views challenge us to consider our own values and approaches to the issues. …