Not on the Reading List: Thanks to Internet Access, Librarians Have a New Job: Keeping Their Patrons from Tuning in to Porn

By Downey, Sarah | Newsweek, July 17, 2000 | Go to article overview

Not on the Reading List: Thanks to Internet Access, Librarians Have a New Job: Keeping Their Patrons from Tuning in to Porn


Downey, Sarah, Newsweek


Librarian Wendy Adamson likes to keep up with readers' interests. She knows who likes a good mystery novel and who prefers the latest romance yarn. But she draws the line at helping patrons indulge their sexual curiosity on the Internet. "One guy was really into bondage. A lot of them had a thing for torture scenes,'' says Adamson, who saw the images on monitors after the Minneapolis Public Library connected to the Net in 1996. Several dozen people got in the habit of surfing for cyberporn at the main library, Adamson says--sometimes for eight straight hours.

The Internet revolution has changed the local library. Circulation is up, budgets are up and, with more high-tech resources, the role of librarian now includes thwarting sex acts on the premises. One of Adamson's colleagues stumbled on three teenagers, apparently heated up by what they'd been watching on the computer, having group sex in the bathroom. Circulation supervisors in a library in Austin, Texas, witnessed an adult patron telling children how to access Internet porn. "They were being exposed to things they'd really rather not see,'' says assistant library director Cynthia Kidd.

Librarians tend to support the First Amendment, so the idea of restricting Internet access doesn't come easily. But with porn seekers continuing to increase, 15 percent of the nation's 9,000 public-library systems (Austin's included) now use filters.

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