Are You Paying for Porn at the Library?
BY Danielle Bean
| Posted 1/13/10 at 11:00 AM
Two days ago, I dropped off my daughter at basketball practice and drove to a local library to get some work done.
Armed with a stack of reading, I headed toward a quiet spot I know near the back. To get there, I had to walk past the library computer stations. And, on this particularly day, that meant I had to walk past a middle-aged man clicking away on a publicly-viewable screen filled with pornography.
There was no mistaking what was on that screen.
I wasn’t sure what to do. I headed to my intended reading spot, but with Porn Man still within view, and preschoolers playing with wooden puzzles not 12 yards away, there was no way I could concentrate on working there. I was pretty sure there must be some kind of rule against viewing pornographic materials in public spaces, so I decided to ask the librarian.
“Is there a rule against using library computers to look at pornography?” I asked the librarian at the main desk.
“No,” she winced. “We don’t have a filter or anything like that. That’s why kids need signed permission from their parents to use the computers here.”
“But kids could walk by that man’s screen right now and see EVERYTHING!” I protested, pointing to Porn Man, whose eyes were still fixed on his screen.
“Well,” the librarian offered uncomfortably, “We do sometimes ask people not to do that here.”
“That would be a start.”
But as I walked away from the desk, I felt bad for the librarian. She doesn’t make the rules. She’s just put in the impossible position of enforcing “unofficial” rules—which happen to be simple standards of decent behavior.
This incident makes me ask some ludicrous questions:
Should a little librarian lady have to confront a man viewing sexually explicit material and ask him to stop? Should I have to? Should patrons of the library, including children, be subjected to offensive material on other people’s computer screens? Should any of us have to share public spaces with men who are sexually stimulating themselves with obscene material?
This inspired me to do some research into state laws regulating public access to the internet, and I found that New Hampshire only “requires school boards to adopt a policy regarding Internet access for school computers, and establishes liability for violation of the policy” (Find out your state’s laws here).
There are no regulations with regard to internet access in libraries here. Tax dollars pay for Porn Man’s access to offensive materials and provide him the public space in which to impose them on others.
There is something wrong with that. Something seriously wrong.
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