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From Library Journal 11/24/09, Faced with Too Little Bandwidth, Some Libraries Limit Streaming Media, Porn.

… according to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, and a few, at least, are cutting back on the amount of bandwidth for streaming media to assure that the integrated library system (ILS) and other functions remain robust.

Having worked as a computer center supervisor for some time at an urban, public library, I understand the need for making room for the “ILS and other functions.” The majority of my patrons come in to watch feature-length, streaming films from their native countries on YouTube, play RPGs, watch music videos, and take online exams for higher education. We need every bit of bandwidth we can spare when we’ve got 30+ machines running at full speed.

It seems to me that limiting bandwidth flirts with violating the ALA Code of Ethics. The first point in the eight-point Code mentions providing equitable access to library resources, and I believe that as long as all patrons’ streaming media bandwidth is the same, choices to limit it are fine. However, the Code of Ethics also tells us to, “uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources,” and “We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.” Based on the Code, is limiting access to bandwidth a moral gray area? I’m not sure.

Further Reading:

UPDATE:

  • The Library Journal Blog had two related articles on this topic today:
  1. Broadband Stimulus Programs Should Take Libraries More into Account
  2. Gates Foundation Boosts Library Broadband Efforts
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