Incident at the Seattle Public Library

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    DBP, I’m completely bewildered by your stance on this. Did you read my accounts of what happened to me at the SW branch, or am I a liar as well as Julie? Are you suggesting that I was somehow deliberately intruding on this poor perv’s space, and therefore deserved whatever I got an eyeful of?

    Aw heck, anonyme. I’m not saying that you or julie.howe are snoopers. I just don’t think this is as big of a problem as you think it is. Nor did I much care for the way julie went about this . . .

    I spend a lot of time at libraries, and it seems to me that SPL has taken reasonable steps to prevent “porn spillage.” But ok . . . maybe they could do more . . . And if you say you saw porn, then you saw porn.

    I apologize if I’ve offended you. (Trying to be nicer this year. Guess I backslid a little.)

    Perhaps you had better revisit SW branch. There is no way to exit or enter the young adult section (which is also the rear route to the restrooms) without passing close by the bank of computers that face out toward the YA section. I resent the suggestions that these screens are only visible to snoopers, or that I should be expected to traverse the library with my eyes glued to the floor.


    OK, tell you what I’ll do. I’ll go back to the SW Library again and hang around for a while in the vicinity of the screens, then give you my impression. If I’m wrong on that count too, I’ll admit it.


    [Library moms, please take note. If you see a shaggy, middle-aged White male lurking about with a clipboard, it’s not a pervert. It’s just me, your irrelevant correspondent. AKA DBP.]




    i am having a really difficult time getting upset about the “city” depriving poor men from seeing naked women.

    Nor do i buy the idea that men’s only access is now on a public computer system.

    if the bus system can get “poor” men to casinos…

    it can get them to strippers.



    this comes down to the idea that a single individuals “rights” are more important than those of the community.

    i have no problem with the Seattle public library protecting the individual’s right to unfettered access to materials.

    what i have a problem with is the idea that a private activity.. like viewing porn… is being made so public that anyone walking past a computer screen is treated to the view of naked bodies having sex.

    this is not something i want to see

    and i am neither a child nor a prude.



    Ah the delicate balancing act between nanny government and civil behavior. There is an easy choice. I don’t discount the message of the poster. I have taken many,many a trip to the library without this being an issue. In the end though if this is the way it is, and enough parents find it to be so… simple solution. Stop patronizing the library. We do it when we withdraw our kids from public schools, we do it when we don’t let them enter Volunteer Park restrooms..The complaints on Volunteer went unheeded… they are now closing the atrium for lack of public participation..families don’t go there…. community standards are what the community will tolerate. At some point the library loses. It loses a future generation who don’t have the habitual tradition of seeking out public libraries. There are lots of school libraries that would never tolerate this. Use your options.



    The problem is that people are nosey, and when they walk by, they will look at what you are looking at no matter what. As for the stripclubs, there is only one that I know of in Seattle by Safeco Field. I haven’t been there yet because I’m not interested. In most major cities there is at least a dozen of gentlemen’s clubs. Honolulu may have the best stripclubs in the country. Don’t look at what other people are looking at on their computer. Keep your head straight forward and you won’t be offended. Oh yeah… and expect the unexpected in a free public space.



    I say we put some computers in a separate room, have curtains behind them and for a quarter the computer comes on and shows porn for 3 minutes.

    Maybe some wealthy individual, or organ*snerk*ization could make an endowment *snerk* to create “Lusty Lady” rooms in all of the branches. :-P




    Yea, tell a 10 year old not to “look around”…. that’s their job as 10 year olds… to look around and be curious. What they see, and where they are .. that’s a parental gig. Jiggers.. I’d have to give Atlanta the nod… course’ those were the Neon Dion days of yore…





    you suggest that to protect their children from public displays of graphic sex..

    parents should stop using the library?

    or any public spaces?

    that the majority of Americans should have their freedom to use public spaces restricted

    because the few want to make what is acknowledged to be a private activity public?

    who knew you were a closet anarchist



    This is my first time writing or reading a blog and am sadly doing so in response to the recent media coverage regarding pornography in public libraries: two words, ideas, concepts that should in no way be linked together! My family and I have had this experience as well. A little over two weeks ago, on a Monday evening, I stopped with my children at the Southwest Library on 35th Ave to check out our books for the week. We frequent this library as well as the other neighborhood libraries in West Seattle. On this particular Monday my son and I were looking at the comic books adjacent to the teen section, he turned around to go to the check out station and I heard, “Mom look!”. What my son got to point out to me was an older man watching pornography (listening too via headphones?) on the computer directly in front of the teen book and comic area. When I brought this up to the librarian she said that there was nothing she could do as long as he was using the privacy screen. She appeared to be very uncomfortable with the situation at hand. We were informed that Seattle Public libraries do not censor any viewing material available on the Internet but they do provide top notch privacy screens. Also that there was a lot of thought and discussion where computers were placed. I was given a comment sheet to fill out, which I did, left my contact information and went home with my children. There was a long discussion in the car between myself, my 12 year old son and 9 year old daughter. Fortunately we have an open dialogue in our family but not one I was anticipating or desiring to have as a result from our experience at the local library!

    I have also heard that at a library, I believe on Beacon Hill, a man was witnessed twice viewing porn on a computer visible to all walking to the restroom, another example of a very public viewing area.

    I hold two concerns. One obviously is children of all ages being exposed to such sexual explicit material. Families with young children, school age children meeting for study groups and tutoring and our youth in general using the library to grow, learn and enrich their knowledge and imaginations. Not exactly a setting in which pornography supports this growth and development.

    My other concern is regarding how the viewers of pornography will respond to sexual stimuli, arousal and other feelings in a public setting with young children in near vicinity. I am not judging the viewers of such material but I greatly question the location and surroundings that this is being allowed to happen, as well as, the viewer’s discretion of using the public library to view pornography. This combination, I believe very strongly, puts our children at risk of harm. I was told that there were only a few complaints by other parents. My response to that is most parents do not even realize or know that pornography can and is being viewed within 5 feet of where their children are checking out books.

    “With parents there is power!” This was quoted to me by another mother and I believe that the community needs to come together to make change. My hope is that all in support of censoring Internet material, specifically pornography, in the public libraries will speak up. It is only in number and strength that our voices will be heard. I felt dismayed by the initial lack of response regarding my concerns. I now hold hope and feel encouraged to go further after reading the articles in the Seattle PI, Seattle Times and hearing the coverage on National Public Radio.

    Thank you Julie for starting this, I was on my way but wasn’t sure where to start!



    Your kids saw something out of their comfort zone and then you had to talk about it with them. Who knew being a parent was so tuff. Censor everything so you don’t have to talk to your kids.

    And those privacy screens work pretty well IMO…



    We truly are a sexually depressed nation. I find it ironic though that people love to pro-create which means… having sex! There is a lot of hypocrites out there when it comes to this topic. Yes… Parenting is part of teaching your kids the values of what sex means/is. Don’t wait until after there first engagement with the opposite party. That is way too late.



    Thanks for the additional detail, waterworld. It’s been a long time since I read about CIPA (though it was the statute at issue in the Supreme Court case I’ve cited a couple of times) and I didn’t really have time to look up all the salient details. Your point about statutory definitions is right on, and it hasn’t only been applied to libraries; I recall a case from when I was in college where an adult bookstore wanted to open within the minimum distance from a public park. (It was actually a walking path that ran behind a row of shops. I don’t remember how the case was resolved, just that there was a lot of arguing about whether the shop violated community standards or not.)

    CIPA specifically regards E-Rate funds, which many school and public libraries use. I think SPL is a recipient, or was a few years ago, but I’m not sure. However, there’s some wiggle room in the statute; the requirements specifically cover obscenity (which, as previously mentioned, has a different definition than pornography), child pornography (which is illegal), and material deemed harmful to minors. So it’s really the third of these at play with regard to this particular incident. I just looked at the statute and Ms. Howe might well have a case there–but it doesn’t automatically prove that SPL is out of compliance with CIPA. (Note, I’m not advocating one way or the other, just giving some perspective from someone in the biz, as it were.)

    It might also be worth mentioning that CIPA does not certify filtering software, nor does it specify any particular sites to be blocked. That way lies bureaucratic nightmare, frankly.

    2 Much Whine: there are video viewing booths like that at an adult store in White Center. One of my friends used to work there. There are reasons she no longer does; the phrase “they don’t pay me enough for this” may have featured among them.




    sexually repressed?

    because i don’t want to have to look at the ground to avoid seeing someone have sex?

    i don’t think so.

    i think you have that backwards…

    those who prefer watching to finding willing partners are far more likely to be sexually repressed than those who just plain don’t want to be treated to the view of someone else’s private parts in public.



    JoB….Maybe they can’t find willing partners for a number of reasons. Does that make them repressed? Maybe a teenie weenie bit. But I don’t think so. More like maybe unlucky human beings though. Even married people are repressed. How about some gorillas in the wild who don’t have play. I wonder though how they get their jollies off since they don’t have computers for pleasure viewing. If the State knew that this was going to be a huge problem before the libraries were built, they should have already put a blocking system in place in its network. But they can’t due to our right thru the constitution. So Houston, we have a problem now.



    My hope is that all in support of censoring Internet material, specifically pornography, in the public libraries will speak up. It is only in number and strength that our voices will be heard. I felt dismayed by the initial lack of response regarding my concerns. I now hold hope and feel encouraged to go further after reading the articles in the Seattle PI, Seattle Times and hearing the coverage on National Public Radio.

    Yeah, yeah, Naledi. I understand your concern about your faaaambly and all. But what’s your next “concern” gonna be, I wonder. Cussing on the Internet?

    Let’s just take things slow and easy, shall we? I’m still not convinced that this is as gigantic a problem as some people think it is.

    Personally, my biggest aggravation at the library has been other people’s screaming kids . . . but I’ve found that if you just wait ’em out, the kids eventually run out of breath and stop.




    I believe that the only way to deal with this problem without getting into nit-picky censorship or discussions of what is obscene and what isn’t is to screen the computer areas so that screens cannot be viewed from outside. Period.

    But I am concerned at the way that SPL has tried to dismiss or minimize the issue by insisting (as Nareli and others, including myself, have reported) that they’ve only had a few complaints. This is patently false. At SW branch alone the staff has confided in me that there have been numerous complaints and several visits by police when the porn viewer made blatant attempts to draw others (including children) into their activity. The current policy of looking the other way after laying out a free smorgasbord for sexual predators is unacceptable.

    I do not believe for a moment that the parents who have expressed concern on this thread have done so because they are too lazy to parent their children. Nonsense. Children are naturally curious, and a child who sees pornographic images on a prominently displayed computer screen will be drawn in. An adult might immediately recognize the content and choose to look away; a child probably would not. As Julie pointed out (and I applaud her for doing so) these are not images that might initiate a healthy discussion of sexuality. Much of the content being openly viewed at the library is hard-core pornography that might easily disturb an open-minded adult, much less a child. A child is not capable of processing such images, no matter how much discussion takes place afterward. This is not a situation of walking in on mommy and daddy,or seeing an “R” rated movie, or witnessing some doggies doing what doggies (and others) do naturally.

    Julie, thanks again for bringing this issue to light via the media. The detail provided in your interview was essential in making others understand that what is being openly displayed at the public library is not merely a glimpse of naked ladies that happened to shock a few blue hairs.




    How do you know that most of the content being viewed at the library is hard-core?

    And if the library staff is calling the police if someone’s behavior is lewd then how is that a policy of looking the other way?



    The content observed by numerous individuals (myself included) was hard-core. You’re correct in pointing out that I can’t possibly know that “most” of what is being viewed is hard-core, but the complaints referenced in this thread, as well my own experience, were in regard to hard porn. Is the percentage of soft porn vs. hard porn relevant? Please explain.

    I don’t know that the library made the calls to SPD, or if it was the patron, or at the patron’s insistence. The day I complained I was given completely conflicting information. I was told that action is taken (whether by asking the viewer to leave, or involving police) only if it is obvious that the viewer was clearly trying to display his activity to others. This was precisely the case, and yet my complaint was dismissed with a recommendation to write to the library administration. This is the standard response. I call that looking the other way, and so do a lot of other people who have been in this situation and reported it here and in other media. What you’ve perhaps inadvertently highlighted in your cross-examination is that this activity does in fact encourage lewd behavior in the library, which then requires police intervention. I think who made the call is less relevant than the fact that the call was necessary.



    There has been a tear in the time space continuum . . . as I post, I look over my shoulder for signs of the 4 Horses of the Apocalypse because for the first time both Jiggers and Kootchman sound reasonable and pragmatic to me! While I haven’t experienced 2nd hand pornography at the library, I don’t doubt that it happens. And of course, should my trusty laptop and ancient pc at home fail me, I will wipe down library computer keys and mouse with SANI-COM PRE-moistened antimicrobial wipes now before I have to use them. Ick!

    My web pages are no ones business but my own, including the library and its patrons. Would I prefer that hard core porn NOT be watched at the public library -absolutely. I wonder, if Jiggers and Kootchman would be as magnanimous if the accidental 2nd hand viewing was hard core male pornography?

    I will be looking at my feet the next time I walk by the bank of computers at the library to collect my holds.



    I don’t believe watching porn encourages lewd behavior. I watch porn and it doesn’t make me want to expose myself to kids or other people. And if you truly believe it does encourage lewd behavior then I wouldn’t suggest putting the computers in a screened off area where some pervs would be able to touch themselves without anybody really seeing. I don’t think it’s a realistic plan to have a segregated computer section in every library. The privacy screens I think will have to suffice.

    Soft/hard core doesn’t matter, I was just wondering how you knew what most people were viewing at the library.



    That’s funny, I don’t recall making any claim that I “knew what most people were viewing at the library”. Nor did I say – or even insinuate – that watching porn encourages lewd behavior. You’re making some pretty wild extrapolations there, roundthesound. What I did say, and I stand behind, is the fact that free porn in a public venue used by women and children attracts those with a predilection for lewd, inappropriate, or even criminal behavior, especially the passive forms like indecent exposure. These guys don’t have to actually expose themselves – they use the computer screen to do that for them.

    If barriers (not private booths) were installed and they chose to “touch themselves” then the person sitting next to them might have an issue. But I don’t really see that happening, as the alternative is just so bloody easy under the current arrangement.



    Playing the devils’s advocate for just one moment, I recall an incident just last year when I was at the SW Library to shoot a few pictures of our very own “miws” using a library computer for a future WSB story. Just as a courtesy, I gave the librarian on duty a heads up that I WOULD be shooting a patron using a library computer. While the librarian acknowledged my right to take such images, they also asked if I would wait a moment (which I did) to wait and make sure there were no children in the area. That said, after waiting a minute or so – I got my pictures of miws at the SW public library. I did NOT have to wait – but I did. So, in my mind it DOES actually SHOW that the library folks DO care about privacy issues.




    Post number 84 is from my daughter. We had a family dinner the night after the library incident and the grandkids were still upset over the “sighting”. This is a mom who has good rapport and an open dialog with her children on all subjects. The 12 year old was still disturbed and expressed that it was inappropriate to be viewed there. Yes, it’s important for young children to learn at an early age, about love and sex but porn is certainly something they do not have to be exposed to. It has nothing to do with love or lovemaking. I’m not against porn viewed in privacy but the library is a public place.

    I feel no obligation as a taxpayer to support more privacy for viewing porn. There is a time and place and don’t feel the library is either. Families should feel comfortable and safe in the library. The library has chosen to not make a “no porn”statement. It’s time to reavaluate and hopefully the public will be heard. I spoke at a community library meeting on Beacon Hill last month and had hoped to hear back from someone. They are very aware of the problem and hopefully will be more inclined to deal with the issue.



    I thought the Seattle Times story by Eric Lacitis was incomplete. Usually he gets both sides of the story, and he neglected to interview or get comments from the men he observed viewing porn.



    gina. good point..

    but i still wonder if this conversation would have been different if the pornography seen had involved a child?

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