Local History Librarian called me and told me this story last week:
When someone wants to access the sexual offender registry, it is usually a serious request. There can be an emotional response: fear, anger, tears. There is usually some hesitation, some determination that you can sense from the patron.
A young woman approached LHL to access the database. She was guided to a computer and into the database. LHL discreetly retired to the desk.
The young woman came back. “I can’t find him in this thing. He said he was in there!”
LHL said, “Well, let’s check if he is in the general offender database.”
“He’d better be,” she said. “He SAID he was in the computer.”
LHL found him and pulled up the entry. The young woman went berserk. She pulled her little boy over to see the screen, pointing at it and hollering, “Look, there he is on the computer! That's his name! See?” She was laughing and hugging her son, obviously happy to have found him.
Her next stop was to find an arson charge for the same man. This seemed to be even more exciting because it had a mug shot. More laughing and hugging.
LHL was stunned. I was stunned when she told me. It was as though her boyfriend was a celebrity because he was “in the computer”.
I know that some people think that teaching web content design classes is outside the library’s scope. I can understand to a certain point. After all, it isn’t our job to write personal ads, or represent someone’s personal life online.
However, we do see libraries as resources for community development. We put effort into children’s programs and materials for educational purposes. Kids who are involved at school are statistically less likely to be abused or end up in jail. They have better self-esteem and are more likely to graduate.
What better reason to have web page development classes, if this woman attributes such esteem to her boyfriend for appearing on one? Isn’t it worthwhile to teach kids that they don’t have to wait to APPEAR on the internet, that they can proudly put positive information about themselves out there for all to see?
I would rather the library focus on local “celebrities” that had pages on mySpace.com or iTube.com than those who are found in the offender registry, myself. At least until the offenders get out of jail and need to use the internet to find jobs and get a new life.
Let’s focus on the positive side. Let’s help build lives now. Let’s help get smiling faces on the net instead of mug shots!