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founded 11 months ago

1913 - library established in Houston by a black community. Years later, the city disbanded the all 8 black board members and shut the library down

1939 - 5 black people thrown out of a Virginia library for “disturbing the peace” (they were quietly reading).

1961 - Geraldine Edwards Hollis and eight other students from historically-black Tougaloo College — a group known as the Tougaloo Nine — held a sit-in at a “whites-only” public library in Jackson, Mississippi, as an act of civil disobedience.

1970 - the first meeting of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association formed to address the fact that the ALA wasn’t meeting the needs of Black library professionals.

The late 1990s started to become the sweet spot for library inclusion and governance. Everyone was welcome to access books and media without restriction.

In the 2000s, technology emerged in public libraries in a quite inclusive way. There some libraries had PCs and some had ethernet and/or Wi-Fi (free of captive portals). Anyone could use any of those technologies.


  • Ethernet becomes nearly non-existent, thus excluding:

    • people running FOSS systems (which often lack FOSS Wi-Fi firmware)
    • people with old hardware
    • people who oppose the energy waste of Wi-Fi
    • people who do not accept the security compromise of Wi-Fi (AP spoofing/mitm, traffic evesdropping, arbitrary tracking by all iOS and Android devices in range)
  • Wi-Fi service itself has become more exclusive at public libraries:

    • captive portals -- not all devices can even handle a captive portal, full stop. Some captive portals are already imposing TLS 1.3 so people with slightly older hardware cannot even reach the ToS page. Some devices cannot handle a captive portal due to DNS resolution being dysfunctional before the captive portal is passed and the captive portal itself is designed to need DNS resolution.
    • GSM requirement -- some public library captive portals now require patrons to complete an SMS verification. This of course excludes these demographics of people:
      • People who do not own a mobile phone
      • People who do not carry a mobile phone around with them
      • People who do not subscribe to mobile phone service (due to poverty, or for countless privacy reasons)
      • People who object to disclosing their mobile phone number and who intend to exercise their right to data minimisation (under the GDPR or their country’s version thereof)
  • Web access restrictions intensified:

    • e-books outsourced to Cloudflared services, thus excluding all demographics of people who Cloudflare excludes.
    • Invidious blocked. This means people who do not have internet at home have lost the ability to download videos to watch in their home.
    • Egress Tor connections recently blocked by some libraries, which effectively excludes people whose systems are designed to use Tor to function. So if someone’s email account is on an onion service, those people are excluded from email.

There’s a bit of irony in recent developments that exclude privacy seekers who, for example, deliberately choose not to have a GSM phone out of protest against compulsory GSM registration with national IDs, because the library traditionally respects people’s privacy. Now they’re evolving to actually deny service to people for exercising their privacy rights.

There needs to be pushback to get public libraries back on track to becoming as inclusive as they were in the 1990s. A big part of the problem is outsourcing. The libraries are no longer administrating technology themselves. They have started outsourcing to tech giants like Oracle who have a commercial motivation to save money, which means marginalising demographics of people who don’t fit in their simplified canned workflow. When a patron gets excluded by arbitrary tech restrictions, the library is unable to remedy the problem. Librarians have lost control as a consequence of outsourcing.

One factor has improved: some libraries are starting to nix their annual membership fee. It tends to be quite small anyway (e.g. $/€ 5/year), so doesn’t even begin to offset those excluded by technology.


cross-posted from:

Digital collections put library patrons’ privacy at risk

submitted 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago) by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

I noticed a library that has ethernet ports, which I must say is quite impressive. So many libraries strictly expect people to use wifi which has downsides:

  • many (most?) wifi NICs have no FOSS drivers (ethernet is actually the only way I can get my FOSS laptop online)
  • ethernet is faster and consumes less energy
  • wifi radiation harms bees and other insects according to ~72 studies (update: separate discussion thread here which shows the research is heavily contested)
  • apparently due to risk of surrounding households consuming bandwidth, 2FA is used (which is inadvertently exclusive at some libraries)
  • enabling wifi on your device exposes you to snooping by other people’s iPhones and Androids according to research at University of Hamburg. Every iPhone in range of your device is collecting data about you and sending it to Apple (e.g. SSIDs your device previously connected to). From what I recall about this study, it does not happen at the network level, so ethernet devices attached to the same network would not be snooped on (and certainly SSID searches would not be in play).
  • (edit) users at risk to AP spoofing (thanks @[email protected] for pointing this out)

I don’t know when (if ever) I encountered a library with ethernet. Is this a dying practice and I found an old library, or a trending practice by well informed forward-thinking libraries?

BTW, the library that excludes some people from wifi by imposing mobile phone 2FA is not the same library that has ethernet ports, unfortunately. If you can’t use the wifi of the SMS 2FA library then your only option is to use their Windows PCs.

Who Needs Libraries, Anyway? (
submitted 7 months ago* (last edited 7 months ago) by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

All libraries in #Brussels are closed on holidays and most of them closed on Sunday. Exceptionally, a few open on Sunday for just a 2 hour window so you can get a book and get out.

Even more exceptional is one branch in the city that is officially closed on Sunday but you can sign up for access all day. It’s not staffed but you can badge in and surveillance cameras record everything throughout. You cannot bring friends and have a duty to prevent tail-gating through the door. But it’s good to at least have the option. Otherwise it’d be quite annoying to have no access on Sunday. Most people get Sunday off so of course it’s the most interesting day to use the library.

Anyway, it’s cool that the Swedish library in that article was respected apparently despite no surveillance (I assume). If that were a regular thing I guess there would eventually be a bad apple.


Videos used to be on VHS tape, then DVD, then blu-ray. But these discs are being obsoleted. My library piled ~10s of thousands of audio CDs on tables a couple years ago and simply gave them all away. For a week you could take whatever you wanted. The library did not want them back. They were offloading.

So apparently the trend is: everything is going to the cloud. If I want to learn a new skill, Youtube has become the way to do that. So how do you bring home a #Youtube video? The library has started blocking Invidious downloads-- probably fearing copyright issues.

Didn’t people generally used to be able to checkout a dozen or so DVDs? So you could watch the content at home in your overstuffed chair with beer, popcorn, pizza, whatever. The online access restrictions force us to do the viewing inside the library and only during library hours. And of course if I try to carry in an overstuffed chair, a keg of beer, and pizza, they’ll probably bounce me for breaking the “no food” rule. So it seems we’re losing the ability combine beer and videos.

When a video is walking people through the steps of repairing or rebuilding something, it can be absurdly impractical to memorize the video and (for example) try to rebuild your motorcycle. The video has to be in front of you as you work on the device.

In an abstract way, it’s a #rightToRepair issue. I would love to drive a motocycle into a library and disassemble it in the PC area as a publicity stunt.


cross-posted from:

Connecting to the WiFi network of the French library system is arbitrarily restrictive. Connection dies the moment a Tor packet is sent. Tor is legal and also does not break the agreement people must agree to when connecting.

Does anyone know if this is the library’s decision? They apparently outsource to Cisco so I wonder if Cisco decided for themselves to block Tor traffic without being directed to do so.

Is it typical for public libraries to block #Tor?


Does the EU or any EU member states have anything comparable to the Library Bill of Rights?


The WiFi service requires no password but once you connect you are forced through a login portal that requires your mobile phone number which it then verifies via SMS.

I imagine a lot of people with GSM service likely have a data plan, thus don’t need WiFi. People on limited/prepaid plans would benefit from WiFi. But non-GSM users are discriminated against and it seems like a human rights violation. Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 21 ¶2: “Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.” I wonder if it might be a #GDPR violation as well since it would seem to undermine the data minimization principle.

The library has PCs but then of course those PCs are limited to the apps the library installs.


The library’s PC was blocked from a Cloudflare site. This was not the CAPTCHA style block but a hard and fast absolute block. I tested another site which I know is Cloudflared, and no block (but that was the type of site that pushes CAPTCHAs rather than absolute blocks).

So I’m wondering how common this is. Cloudflare is generally hostile toward any shared IP address. Are many libraries experiencing Cloudfare blockades?


cross-posted from:

Until recently, it was possible to download #Youtube videos on a library PC & store on USB drive by using an #Invidious front-end. Recently the library has blocked all invidious instances. You can still view videos but when you try to download one it gives a 403 forbidden error.

Why are they doing this?

I can only think of two possibilities: 1. bandwidth limitations 2. copyright issues. Anyone know anything solid about this?

Suggestions on other options would be appreciated. I assume users cannot install their own apps, which means front-ends that need installation are problably a non-starter. It looks like there is a web-based front end called #Piped but many of those instances are hosted with the same domain as Invidious thus may be blocked as well.



I know Canadian libraries operate similarly, but I mean more so like in Europe. Are they as big there as they are here? And do they require fees to join, or are paid via taxes like here as well?

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