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Ahhh, The Library, Where You Can Feed Your Healthy Addiction for... Porn?

Brooklyn Public Library spokesperson confirms porn surfing is protected under residents' First Amendment rights

Porn Internet surfing recently became an issue of concern for The Brooklyn Public Library, after news of a fist-fight that broke out between two men last weekend.

Santiago Real, 38, of Brooklyn, was viewing pornography on a library computer, while Durail Wright, 25, of Manhattan, was waiting to use the terminal, and became angry at the peeping porn patron.

The two men got in a fight and traded blows. Wright was charged with assault, disorderly conduct and harassment, while Real was given a summons for disorderly conduct.

To be clear, Real’s disorderly conduct charge had everything to do with his fight and nothing to do with his porn surfing.

In fact, according to library officials, the ability to access any of the websites falls under residents' First Amendment rights.  They say as long as the resident has a library card and is over the age of 17, they have no right to restrict the websites a resident can access.

A spokesperson for the New York Public Library says it does everything it can to make branches safe and that the children's computers have the sites blocked.  The spokesperson added that only about 1 percent of patrons actually use library computers to view adult content.

At the Macon, Bedford and Marcy branches of the Brooklyn Public Libraries in Bed-Stuy, the children’s computers are separated from the adult computers.

In the adult section, a librarian at the Bedford branch library confirmed that searching online for adult content is in fact permissible. In fact, she said, if any one has a problem finding anything online, “there’s a librarian here that can always assist you.”

So what goes on in the kids’ section? All BPL public computers have filtering software as part of the Children's Internet Protection Act, which means, basically, children who are issued separate library cards will have restricted computer access.

However, anyone age 12 -17 is considered “a young adult.” And in the Marcy branch library, for example, the young adult and adult sections are clustered together.

So basically, someone as young as 13 may not be able to access porn sites (because their library card would not grant it), but they definitely have access to peep someone else who may have a porn predilection.

Alexios Moore April 27, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Seems like the library is doing a good job of balancing first amendment rights with child welfare. Ethical firestorm averted. PS Supreme Court ruled on this back in 2003, so a done deal.
Heidi Sanchez April 28, 2011 at 01:00 PM
Absolutely right, Alexios. I remember when that bogus "Dr." Laura launched a campaign against libraries, saying that children were being subjected to porn and librarians were doing nothing about it. It would have been funny, except that Toys R Us pulled a $250,000 grant they were going to give to children's libraries because of it. With new sources of information come new problems that need to be addressed, and the American Library Association is doing its best to protect the First Amendment rights of all Americans while protecting our children.

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