Recently, I went into the re-modeled Calistoga Library. I was accosted with a bank of large computer screens, which I had to pass by to get to the circulation desk.
I am a very sensitive person, and do not like to be accosted with violent images. All five of the computers I passed by and then noticed also on the other side were occupied by young children playing video games, some of them violent.
I asked the librarian if children are able to access mature material in the library computers. She told me it was free access for any patron of the library. I told her I thought this was inappropriate and asked what can be done about it. She informed me that I would have to speak to their parents.
I saw a few older patrons reading newspapers, but no one who looked like they would be the age of the parents of these children. She told me the children often walk from school to the library and wait for their parents to get them after work.
I often frequent the St. Helena Library. When you access their computers in the adult area you have to check a box that you are over 18 years old. The St. Helena library has a separate children's library with their own computers. I feel that it is wrong to allow young children to have access to anything, including pornography. I feel something has to change.
I wanted to use the high-speed Internet to do some research on old newspapers from the 1880s but all computers were being used by small children all playing video games. I asked the librarian when was a good time to come to access the data bases, and she said Saturday when the children are with their parents.
I spoke about this to one Calistogan who felt it was wonderful that the children could sit so long and be so quiet. I suppose this is the other side of the argument.
I have spoken to many others about this, and several mentioned they have gone to the library during school hours and there are children are playing video games. Where are the truant officers? Should the librarian call the truant officer when children are at the library during school hours? Maybe this is not the job of the librarian?
My family made a contribution to the library, for technology specifically as the old library only had four computers. I am saddened that these computers are being used for playing video games and not being used for more edifying purposes. I left a phone message several days ago to the head of the county library system, and she has not called me back.
Do we have to change a county law to protect our children from mature content and violence on public computers?
I hope my letter will spark some momentum in regards to protecting our minor children against mature and often inappropriate viewing material.
Editor's note: The Register asked the county library director about the issues raised by the author. She submitted a response, which is associated with this letter online and presented at the same time in the print edition.