The Burlington News
Saturday, January 31, 1998
pages 1,2

Pranksters may face 'Net' loss

by Carmela Fragomeni,

Pranksters leaving pornographic images on library computer screens could have their Internet privileges suspend.

Library broad member Michelle Quinn raised the possibility of a zero-tolerance policy after two parents brought their concerns to the board. The policy could include clearly spelled out rules, which if violated, might result in suspension of Internet privileges for a period of time, she said.

Quinn said it's just an idea to consider, as the board discussed generally how to prevent young children from being exposed to sexual material on the Internet at the library.

Young boys sometimes get their kicks searching the Internet for sexually explicit material, and then leave the computer terminal, to watch unnoticed from a distance, while an unsuspecting patron approaches to use the computer, Quinn said.

"We have to have a firm way of dealing with the very small number of kids who deliberately do this", Quinn said.

Quinn made the suggestion after the board heard from two Burlington fathers about how their young children were exposed to pornographic images at the Tansley Woods library branch.

But the board members kept their comments to suggestions only, treading carefully on the delicate issue of access to information without censorship.

The board expects a report at its Feb. 19 meeting from Chief Librarian Wendy Schick on how the library might try to protect young children from such exposures.

Resident David Auger brought the issue to the forefront after an incident earlier this month at the Tansley Woods branch.

Auger was at Tansley with his five-year-old daughter Jenna, when he noticed her staring at something behind him.

He turned around to see a computer screen with a semi-nude and provocative-looking Penthouse model. A youth had been at the computer a few moments earlier and the screen saver that blacks out the screen hadn't engaged.

Al MacIntosh experienced a similar incident about 15 months earlier, when he took his sons, 5 and 11, to the same branch.

In his case, the boys' attention was attracted to a group of boys excitedly huddled around a terminal, looking at a nude man with a crown of thorns, presumably depicting Christ. In front of him was a naked woman, and the words "Jesus Loves Me" were at the top of the screen.

. . . continued on page 2

LIBRARY: Protecting the kids

Auger was so incensed by what he felt was a cavalier attitude displayed by librarians when he pointed out the problem, that he contacted the local press in Burlington "to turn up the heat".

The issue culminated in presentations from Auger and MacIntosh to the library board Thursday evening.

Board member John MacFarlane personally apologized twice for the way Auger was treated. He was the only one of the 11-member board to bring the treatment up at the meeting and to publicly respond to it. "This is certainly not the attitude we're looking for in our staff", he said.

The library's new strategic plan emphasizes customer service, but it is obviously not progressing well enough, he added. But steps are being taken to address it, he said.

Auger accepted the apology and said he and MacIntosh are very pleased the board will address the issue of pornographic images from the Net being exposed to young children.

"To simply sit and do nothing is not a solution", Auger said.

Auger, however, was disappointed "the spectre of censorship" was raised in the meeting.

"Both Al and I took great pains to say we're not suggesting it. Our primary responsibility is to protect children in our community."

Copyright © 1998 by The Burlington News. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.