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In light of the proposed legislation in Utah, School Technology Amendment, the Utah Library Media Supervisors (ULMS) are gathering data on the educational value and use of the databases accessed through Utah’s Online Library (UETN). These databases include World Book, CultureGrams, EBSCO, Gale, eMedia, etc.

Questions to Consider

  • What benefit to instruction and learning do these databases provide?
  • What consequence must be considered if access to the databases was limited or denied to teachers? Learners?
  • Have you or your students ever encountered obscene or pornographic content while using these databases?

History

In fall 2018, access to EBSCO was abruptly turned off statewide due to allegations of inappropriate and illegal content. There was no warning that this was coming. When EBSCO was turned off, educators, teacher-librarians, and students were left without safe, vetted databases to use in research. UETN initiated an investigation and was not able to replicate the concerns brought forth. EBSCO was reinstated after several weeks. The current legislative activity is an attempt to again interrupt the use of not only EBSCO but all databases. As a result of the events of 2018, UETN created a committee and avenue for concerns to be heard. Our understanding is that the committee, though still in existence, is inactive due to the lack of concerns being referred to them.

Definition of Obscene/Pornographic Content

Utah Code 76-10-1203 (1) Any material or performance is pornographic if: (a) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds that taken as a whole, it appeals to a prurient interest in sex; (b) It is patently offensive in the description or depiction of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, or excretion; and (c) Taken as a whole it does not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Bill Language

“This bill requires a digital resource provider to ensure that the digital resource provider’s products used in public schools block “obscene or pornographic material”; provides that a digital resource provider’s failure to comply with this bill after receiving notice is a breach of contract; requires UETN to enter into contracts with digital resource providers that comply with the provisions of this bill, and imposes a reporting requirement.” https://le.utah.gov/interim/2020/pdf/00004588.pdf

Considerations

  1. Who decides what is considered pornographic? What one person deems pornographic, others may not. This is a slippery slope and seems to be at the crux of this issue. i.e. paintings, sculptures, etc.
  2. Databases are far safer than allowing students free rein on the internet.
  3. These databases are already being monitored by UETN and the database companies themselves.
  4. Common sense suggests that if students are trying to access pornography, there are far easier ways to do it.

Thanks,

James Wilson, M.Ed School Library Specialist President, ULMS

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