April 27, 2011

Library Patrons Allowed to Peruse Porn … To A Point

Library computers can be used to view adult sites, but cause a disturbance, the plug will be pulled.
By Franklin Tucker
April 27, 2011

At the Belmont Public Library, patrons can take out the latest bestseller, read the New York Times and use the public computers to view their favorite pornography.

According to Belmont Public Library’s Director Maureen Conners, patrons who use the library’s public computers in the main reference room have an almost unfettered right to view porn and adult sites.

“It’s a question of our patron’s first amendment and free speech rights,” said Connors who spoke Monday night to Belmont Patch at Belmont High School before the first night of Town Meeting.

“Pornography’s everywhere so it doesn’t surprise me that you can get it at the library,” said a Belmont resident – the only one of four patrons who was willing to talk about the subject and only if her name wasn’t used – coming to the library on a warm Wednesday afternoon.

Connors said the library does not block adult and pornography sites available to either the public computers located just off the main entrance or by those who bring their own laptops or computer tablets into the building.

“But it has not been a problem here. In fact. it’s been very rare that we have had to stop anyone,” said Connors.

Conners said the library does not employ a blocking filter as they tend to prevent researchers and patrons from accessing legitimate information. In a noteworthy incident at another library system, students could not access material on breast cancer due to the installation of a popular filter.

The question of viewing online pornography came to light when the New York Post ran a story on Monday, April 25, which reported that anyone over 17 can use computers in any of New York City’s 200 public library branches to view “the most uncensored access to extreme, hard-core Internet smut this side of the old Times Square.”

And while Belmont is not immediately associated with the ‘hustle-and-bustle, anything goes’ nature of the Big Apple, it and nearly every public library is left in the uncomfortable quandary of permitting highly questionable content entering the library via the Internet while preserving the rights of their patrons to view material that is not explicitly illegal such as child pornography.

Connors said that patrons who are seen viewing the material, “we ask them politely if they go to a more appropriate site.”

And due to the configuration of the library’s computers, Belmont librarians are allowed an additional avenue to prevent patrons who have a feel for porn.

Since the public computers face outward towards the reference room and a busy hallway, it is likely that pornography will catch the attention of other patrons, serving as a public deterrent.

And if those other patrons complain that the material is disturbing, the librarians then have the right to step in including going so far as calling the police to have the voyeur removed.

“But most of them are embarrassed when we find them viewing it and they stop,” said Connors.

 

Find article at this link: http://belmont.patch.com/articles/library-patrons-allowed-to-peruse-porn-to-a-point

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