The Burlington Post
Sunday, January 18, 1998
page 2

Internet access concerns father

by Paul Mitchison

Should a couple of complaints about pornography result in removing or restricting Internet access at Burlington's public library system?

That's the dilemma faced by the Burlington Library after a complaint by a Burlington resident that his young daughter, while at a Burlington Public Library branch, was exposed to a Penthousemagazine picture on a computer.

David Auger, a Metro Toronto police officer, is furious that not enough is being done to prevent the situation happening again. "By bringing it into the library, they have a measure of responsibility", he said.

He visited the Tansley Woods branch with his daughter Jenna, 5, on Dec. 7. Auger said she had been a short distance away from him when she touched the keyboard at one of the terminals causing the blacked-out monitor to turn on.

The father said his daughter looked startled, and when he viewed the screen he was shocked to see it was filled with the image of a naked woman.

Auger thinks the library must consider putting computers hooked to the Internet into an adults-only room where children can't be exposed to pornography.

"We all agree the Internet is a wonderful tool", he said, but add the library must have better controls. "Children often times come in without their parents and who is monitoring the kids? Clearly nobody."

Privacy also at issue, says librarian

Wendy Schick, chief librarian, said it's a balancing act for library staff to respect privacy and still monitor what people view on the Internet. "We don't want to be looking over people's shoulders."

The library board Internet Access Policy, adopted in 1996, states the library does not "act in place or in absence of a parent" and is not responsible for enforcing restrictions a parent may place on a child.

Still, if it is brought to the attention of library staff that someone is viewing obscene material over the Internet, offenders can be asked to leave. That policy has been invoked several times, said Schick.

Schick said she's only heard two complaints about porn in the year-and-a-half the Internet has been available at the library. The other complaint was also publicized in the media.

"I think it's something we continue to be concerned about and certainly any incident like this is going to cause us to go back, look again, and see if there are any other solutions", she said.

Last year, the library experimented with software programs to filter out pornography, but legitimate information was being blocked, including Web sites dedicated to breast cancer. Schick said the issue of policing Internet porn exists in library systems everywhere and there are no perfect solutions. The topic will likely be discussed further at the next library board meeting, she said.

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