Library Workers Take Cybersmut Woes Public

Article excerpt

Forty-seven Minneapolis Public Library workers went public in February about their frustrations in dealing with patrons who cruise sexually explicit Internet sites and passersby who are offended by the graphic displays. By the end of the month, library officials reacted by forming a task force of eight managers, headed by Director Mary Lawson, to specify what constitutes unacceptable patron behavior while online.

"We feel harassed and intimidated by having to work in a public environment where we might, at any moment, be exposed to degrading or pornographic pictures," read a February 12 Minneapolis Star Tribune letter to the editor signed by 47 employees of the Central Library. Siding with a February 5 editorial by a patron outraged that MPL won't intervene when users display lewd images online, the letter urged the installation in high-trafficked areas of "sophisticated filters" which, "contrary to the 'official' line of the ALA[ldots] allow searching of topics such as 'breast cancer.'"

In response to written questions from American Libraries, two of the signers, Librarian II Wendy Adamson and Librarian III Nancy Corcoran, said that the group had "wanted to go on record as differing with what we saw as our administration's position that pornography was not a serious problem in our building." They went on to describe how "photos of sexual acts, some involving children, are repeatedly left, perhaps deliberately, in printers around the building, including in the Children's Room" and on computer monitors. "These images do not in any way resemble what you might see in the average Playboy, which, ironically, we keep locked away in a cabinet, to be used only when a patron provides ID."

Acknowledging that administrators first received a staff complaint in April 1997, MPL spokesperson Kristie Gibson told AL that Lawson was "unaware of any specific instance" of a written complaint going unanswered. …