You Can Access Porn On Some Library Computers Which Is Pretty Gross

175130374__1383681169_142.196.156.251I’ve never thought about that fact that some people may be using their public libraries to access porn because, yuck. But I guess it’s one of those things that probably happens all the time. A Chicago mother was seriously disturbed when she witnessed a man watching porn on a computer in her public library. I can’t say I blame her.

Megan Fox said she was using the computer with her daughters in the children’s area when library staff kicked her out and sent her to the adult’s area. It was there she saw a man looking at porn: ”‘I went upstairs and I viewed a man looking at pornographic pictures right in front of me on the computer in front of me,’ Fox said.” She complained to library officials who explained they have filters set up in the children’s sections and teen sections, but not in adult sections. Adults are also not allowed in those areas. The library has no interest in setting up filters to block porn in the adult sections:

“We believe that adults should have access to the information on the Internet, we believe very strongly in First Amendment rights, and those rights are protected her just for adults 18 and up,” library spokesperson Bridget Bettman said. “You’re drawing a fine line. Once you tell an adult that you’re not allowed to access a certain amount of information or type of information, what is it next? Is it books, is it movies? We really strongly believe that adults should have the right to access anything that’s not illegal or obscene, and we stand by that.”

 

Well, I guess the problem is that one person’s obscene is another person’s Sunday afternoon. I’m not a huge fan of regulating what is considered “obscene” in a public library, because I’m sure everyone’s definition of obscene is different. I do wish we could all agree that it’s inappropriate to watch porn in a public place where children are though. I think that’s fair. I’d like to bring a bottle of wine with me into the library and pop it open and drink it while I’m perusing the books, but I’m not allowed to do that either. I bet they don’t have a pornographic magazine section. If adults should have access to anything that’s not illegal and obscene and library officials don’t consider porn obscene – then why not?

I’m not a huge fan of porn. I used to like it before there was sooooo much of it, but now something about the endless pages of videos on those sites just sort of depresses the hell out of me. It’s like there’s just so much fucking everywhere that it’s not even interesting anymore. But I certainly don’t want my teenage step-daughter walking through areas of the library that are accessible to everyone and having to see someone watching porn. I find that creepy. Heck, I don’t want to see it. I’m okay with the “everyone watch porn at home” rule.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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    • Coby

      When I was in high school, I went to the public downtown library to do some research for a project. I was using one of the computers to look up books, and I look over to my right and dude next to me was totally having cyber sex. In public. Typing in all caps. Totally skeeved me out, and I found another computer (after washing my hands).

      To the point, though, I don’t have an issue with people looking at porn – I have an issue with people looking at porn in a public place. I will readily admit that I don’t know the specifics/laws, but I’m pretty confident that you can’t view it in public… and doesn’t a library qualify as a public place (save and except private libraries, and I can’t even think of a private library off the top of my head)?

    • Coby

      When I was in high school, I went to the public downtown library to do some research for a project. I was using one of the computers to look up books, and I look over to my right and dude next to me was totally having cyber sex. In public. Typing in all caps. Totally skeeved me out, and I found another computer (after washing my hands).

      To the point, though, I don’t have an issue with people looking at porn – I have an issue with people looking at porn in a public place. I will readily admit that I don’t know the specifics/laws, but I’m pretty confident that you can’t view it in public… and doesn’t a library qualify as a public place (save and except private libraries, and I can’t even think of a private library off the top of my head)?

      • anon

        Our library had at least one patron masturbating to porn right there in the middle of the library (the computers are all set up in the middle of the room – not even a computer lab set off by itself). Had to call a lawyer to figure out how to handle it. Basic answer – can’t set filters, can ask him to leave if he pulls his ying-yang out as that is public indecency. But still – shudder!!!

      • BBJim’s Mam

        Ask him to leave? Call the cops and have him charged.

    • Wilskey

      True story; I was in the library at school when some guy asked to borrow a pen from me. I went to hand him one and noticed he was looking at the Craigslist personals (these often include “classy” boudoir pics). I was kind of skeeved, but went about minding my own business reminding myself that I was in the library of a college and we were all technically adults.

      The following day, back in the library, the same guy was there. This time he was watching video clips of anal fisting as a group of younger students looked on in horror. They saw me notice him and gave me a “can you do something, older lady?” look. I narked him out to security instantly and he was banished from the library permanently.

      The reason I took issue with this was my reasoning that if someone is lacking enough of a filter to watch extremely explicit porn in a public place (note also there were no dividers between stations in this library), what else are they capable of doing?

    • Wilskey

      True story; I was in the library at school when some guy asked to borrow a pen from me. I went to hand him one and noticed he was looking at the Craigslist personals (these often include “classy” boudoir pics). I was kind of skeeved, but went about minding my own business reminding myself that I was in the library of a college and we were all technically adults.

      The following day, back in the library, the same guy was there. This time he was watching video clips of anal fisting as a group of younger students looked on in horror. They saw me notice him and gave me a “can you do something, older lady?” look. I narked him out to security instantly and he was banished from the library permanently.

      The reason I took issue with this was my reasoning that if someone is lacking enough of a filter to watch extremely explicit porn in a public place (note also there were no dividers between stations in this library), what else are they capable of doing?

      • http://anniedeezy.tumblr.com/ Annie

        Exactly the reason I avoid people like that.

        Man, that guy should’ve been suspended pending the results of a mental health exam.

    • StealthGent

      I don’t think they should start filtering, but I do think they should be politely asking those browsing hardcore pornography to leave, like the library I volunteer at does. I was an art student, and have a special hatred for “obscenity” filters. It would be more easily fixed by saying knock it off over blocking sites.

      I can also say as a library volunteer that we have hard copy porn, it’s just in the art, art history, and romance sections.

    • StealthGent

      I don’t think they should start filtering, but I do think they should be politely asking those browsing hardcore pornography to leave, like the library I volunteer at does. I was an art student, and have a special hatred for “obscenity” filters. It would be more easily fixed by saying knock it off over blocking sites.

      I can also say as a library volunteer that we have hard copy porn, it’s just in the art, art history, and romance sections.

    • Rachel Sea

      They put black sheets in front of porn mags at convenience stores because they aren’t supposed to be viewable by children. The same should go for public computers. One of my local libraries has privacy screens on a bank of monitors for people working on sensitive things like financial information. If the library thinks freedom of porn is more important than inflicting porn on people who don’t want to see it, they should invest in filters so that the only person who can view the monitor is the person seated in front of it.

      Laws aside, porn sites are teeming with viruses, libraries can’t afford to be bricking computers, or making peoples’ information vulnerable, just so people are free to have a wank.

      • Alex Lee

        I don’t work for a library IT department, but if I had to manage a group of public internet terminals, they’d be automatically wiped and re-flashed after each use.

        And making people’s information vulnerable? If you’re leaving your browser cookies on a public terminal, you need to clean up after yourself. Don’t rely on the library to erase your personal data. It’s most-likely not in their terms of service.

        They should’ve let the mom (with kids) stay in the kid’s area.

      • Rachel Sea

        The really nasty viruses record keystrokes, so just using the infected computer can give a 3rd party sensitive information. The computers at my public library certainly aren’t checked between users. Given their budget, and that I have never seen an IT person there, I would be surprised if they had anything stronger than Norton’s daily auto scan to keep the computers clean.

      • Alex Lee

        “I have never seen an IT person there”

        We work in the shadows!

        “I would be surprised if they had
        anything stronger than Norton’s daily auto scan to keep the computers
        clean.”

        That is some repugnant shit, right there.

      • Rachel Sea

        LOL. My local is so brightly lit, it must keep IT at bay. The staff is recruited from the senior center; there is no one working there who looks to be under 75 years old. I asked the librarian once if she could show me how to access a specific proprietary database, and she said she didn’t know how to use “those gosh darned dratted machines,” and she even has to ask visitors to shut them down, and power them up at night, and in the morning.

      • Alex Lee

        Senior Center IT Guy.

        This is my density.

      • Kim

        You will never see an IT person at my work, because his office is in our workroom, off limits to the public.
        He only comes out when one of the customers breaks something on the computers.
        Kind of like Richmond on The IT Crowd.

    • Amber Starr

      This really skeezes me out… Ugh.

    • Paul White

      Can’t they at least have a section or something, where it isn’t in the middle of the computer lab? ew.

      • zeisel

        Like the old video stores that had a sign above a curtained door stating: adult videos, no one under 18 allowed. They could put up a sign saying: get your viewing pleasures on in this room, because we don’t want to see your hardcore porn.

      • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

        Don’t wanna be the janitor there….nope.

    • Snipe

      I worked at a library, and the workers were specifically forbidden to intervene if someone was viewing porn. The only exception was illegal content, like child porn, but you would have to be up close and personal to determine this. Even then, we were not permitted to intervene. The cops were called in.

      I hated working in the computer lab, because I was obligated to help people when they were viewing images that I found distasteful. Ugh.

      • Rachel Sea

        Those policies are dumb, and gross.

    • Allen

      I’m glad the library doesn’t filter, because I suspect that a lot of filters for porn might inadvertently block other stuff that’s more educational or, at the very least, not a disturbance to other patrons. For example, sex education websites or fiction (not even erotica, necessarily) that contains filtered words. But someone looking at porn in public like that is creepy and a disturbance, and I don’t think making the person stop would be infringing on the person’s right to access information. I suppose there could always be someone out there who needs to look at porn for research or work but doesn’t have their own computer, but even then, they don’t have the right to create a disturbance or prevent others from using the library peacefully.

    • jane murphy

      I agree that I would be totally skeeved out, but a lot of these comments assume that the people in the library want to be looking at porn in a public library. My guess is that, if these people had their druthers, they’d be watching in a more private place as well, but they don’t have the money for a computer, or internet, or frankly, a copy of Hustler. A public library exists so that people who can’t afford “information” can access that information.

      The wait times at public libraries for for 50 Shades of Grey was out of control. I don’t like seeing someone reading that on the bus either, but I politely avert my eyes. Whether we like it or not, porn is the modern “Candide.” People should be able to read/watch/listen to whatever they like, and the library helps make that accessible.

      The second it comes out of their pants, however, my liberal and blase attitude goes right out the window.

      • blh

        We’ll for one what’s the point if watching porn if you’re not ….taking it out of your pants. And two I’d have to disagree with you. I don’t think mist people would watch porn in public, even if they couldn’t watch it at home. You’d have to be pretty socially awkward with no sense of whats acceptable to do that and I would be afraid to be around someone like that at all. And you know watching porn isn’t necessary right ?? Its not like going to the library to do tour homework or something.

      • Alex Lee

        It’s the thrill of watching it in a public place – doing the forbidden – the risk of getting caught by that demure librarian. Most of the time, they’re not even looking at the monitor. Just queueing up the next picture with a slow, noisy click.

        …at least that’s what my friends tell me.

      • Alex Lee

        It’s the thrill of watching it in a public place – doing the forbidden – the risk of getting caught by that demure librarian. Most of the time, they’re not even looking at the monitor. Just queueing up the next picture with a slow, noisy click.

        …at least that’s what my friends tell me.

      • AP

        My library has 50 Shades of Grey in the “Popular New Books” section. You couldn’t *pay* me to touch that battered, dog-eared paperback. I have no idea where it’s been…ick.

    • I watch food porn publically

      OH NOES! You can even view porn on the kid’s computers, apparently. Just google “California freeze position upsets parents.” It’s totally hardcore, you guys.

    • Kari

      Librarian here. The ALA mandate is really against censure. Allowing porn is no different from having books like “And Tango Makes Three” on the shelves. After all they both offend some patrons, but the library chooses to defend access to information. (Note: I don’t have anything against “And Tango Makes Three”, I was just using it to illustrate a point.) Also, for all you know the person watching could be doing research and shutting that down goes against most public libraries’ mission statement.

      By the way, the reason you cannot have wine at the library probably has less to do with the fact that it is alcohol and more with the fact that you can ruin materials with it.

      • Shea

        Agreed. I’m also a librarian and I just have to sigh when I read articles like this. Aside from the censure issues, obscenity filters are a really blunt tool. To put it more frankly, they don’t work. Anyone with a basic knowledge of computers can get around them and still find the porn, and they’ll often filter out completely innocuous sites. This is a free access to information issue, and I think all of us in the library world will agree that that’s the library’s first and most important mandate in a nutshell: free and unfettered access to information.

    • BBJim’s Mam

      My husband actually had to point out to an elderly guy sitting next to him in our library that his headphones weren’t plugged in and every on in the library could hear his porn. It was gross. As long as he wasn’t touching him self I guess… : S

    • Amelia

      Librarian here:: My first thought reading the title was ‘Duh! I thought everyone knew this already!’ But I guess if you aren’t in the field you wouldn’t think about it too much. We don’t have censors on the computers for teens and adult – not sure about children. The real issue with trying to censor these things – OTHER than the fact that our field loathes censoring anything – is that it’s almost impossible to censor porn, and not a google search result for a health class homework question. We do call the police for any sexual behavior – and it’s a public building. With weird people of the public coming in. Ask me how many times we’ve had people masturbating WITHOUT an electronic device being used!

    • Amelia

      Librarian here:: My first thought reading the title was ‘Duh! I thought everyone knew this already!’ But I guess if you aren’t in the field you wouldn’t think about it too much. We don’t have censors on the computers for teens and adult – not sure about children. The real issue with trying to censor these things – OTHER than the fact that our field loathes censoring anything – is that it’s almost impossible to censor porn, and not a google search result for a health class homework question. We do call the police for any sexual behavior – and it’s a public building. With weird people of the public coming in. Ask me how many times we’ve had people masturbating WITHOUT an electronic device being used!

    • Kim

      I’m a librarian and I work in a public library. At least once a day I have to go over to the public computers and do the raised eyebrow “I do not approve” look. Once every couple of months I have to tell someone to put it back in their pants.

      It varies, most commonly it’s groups of teenage boys, sometimes creepy guys, sometimes creepy women, once it was a woman whose child was in the kids section. We get all sorts looking up porn.

      Most fascinating one I’ve ever seen though was one of our more… eccentric computer regulars who was watching a 10 minute clip of a topless woman bouncing on a trampoline. Turns out there is a whole website dedicated to bouncy boobs.