November 19, 2017

Michigan PL Suspends Internet Access After Porn Complaints

By LJ Staff

On November 27, after Internet users were known to be persistently looking at pornography on three computer terminal reserved for adults, managers of the Mt. Clemens Public Library in suburban Detroit decided to suspend Internet access until a new policy is devised. "It’s been a really difficult situation for us to manage," library director Donald Worrell said. The three terminals are situated in the middle of the library’s main space, about 15 feet from the reference desk, and reconfiguring the library would be difficult because it was recently renovated. Around the beginning of November, Worrell said, "People who had never used the library for any other reasons were coming in strictly to access pornography, and in increasing numbers." Staff and patrons complained. "We have families and young children who come in the library. So we don’t have a good solution about how to prevent families and young children from seeing these things," he told LJ.

Patrons who wish to log on must sign in with their first name; then they have a half-hour on the computer. While the library filters Internet access, patrons can ask for the filter to be turned off when they log on, as per a common interpretation of the Children’s Internet Protection Act. "We don’t mediate the computers. We have a small stuff," Worrell said. "I felt it reached the level that the only alternative was to shut down all the computers while we work with all our attorneys and the library board to revise and update our policies and procedures, within the law." The board will meet December 18. He said the library had not used privacy screens, but they are among the options under consideration. Patrons, he said, have displayed initial frustration with the policy change; "then they’re understanding, though they want the computers back up." Two terminals remain in the children’s section. The library serves a population of about 21,000.

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