Libraries: No Safe Haven
My husband, Steve, enjoys studying and documenting his family history. Since our local library provides free access
to expensive online genealogy sites, Steve often visits their genealogy lab to do his research. One Saturday, however,
he saw more than his ancestors' birth dates.
When Steve sat down at the computer and moved the mouse to activate the screen, a pornographic site appeared. As he
tried to close the site, another popped up, and then another. My husband, well-versed in computers, finally had to
ask the library assistant for help in shutting down the sites.
I later asked the assistant whether they had filters on the library computers.
"We do have filters on all the computers," she said, "but people find ways to get around them. Parents drop their
kids off at the library all the time thinking they're protected, but I tell them, 'Your kids aren't safe at the
library.' We try to monitor the computers, but we can't watch every minute. Pedophiles hang out here because they
can find what they want."
While a filter isn't foolproof, it is at least one line of defense again pornography—when libraries choose to use
it. In 2000, Congress enacted the
Child Internet Protection Act
(CIPA) to ensure schools and libraries protect children from exposure
to porn. In order to get federal funding, libraries must certify that they use filtering software "to prevent the
on-screen depiction of obscenity, child pornography or other material harmful to minors." In addition,
twenty-five states have also enacted
Internet filtering laws
However, libraries only have to abide by CIPA if they accept the federal funding known as the E-rate program.
Amazingly, some libraries have refused federal money in the name of protecting First Amendment rights. This
leaves library computers wide open to porn.2 Even for those libraries that do install filters, CIPA
allows adult patrons to request library personnel to disable filters, again putting our kids at risk of exposure
to porn an adult is viewing.3
While CIPA focuses attention on computers, online porn is not the only danger our children face in libraries. A
friend who works part-time at a local branch often sees children as young as eight or nine perusing the graphic
novels shelves in the teen area unattended. Graphic novels are classified together under 741.5 in each of the
different areas of the library.
"The worst ones are in the 'Young Adult' —teen—section," she said. "Porn, deviant behavior, horrid stuff. I
don't know about other branches. I believe each head librarian can design what goes where for at least some
She went on to say the juvenile area has a few graphic novels, some of which are visually stimulating. Closely
related books are also shelved in the 741.5 section of adult non-fiction.
Though graphic novels may not be labeled pornographic, parents would be wise to carefully screen any their
(See "Bif! Bam! Pow! Comics Aren't for Kids
"The Leap from Comic Books to Graphic Novels
Unfortunately, monitoring even our children's library visits is now a necessity.
Pornographic web sites, pedophiles and graphic novels. Should we ban our children from libraries? Of course not.
Libraries are wonderful resources for education and refinement, and many librarians are genuinely concerned
about children's well-being. But if we use libraries as babysitters for our kids, a complaint I've heard from
many library workers, we shirk our parental responsibility to protect our children.
Libraries pose many dangers. By remaining informed and engaged, however, we can make them safer for our
To read more about porn in the libraries, go to Morality in Media's
and Focus Online Communities