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Libraries are for free books, not free porn

John Kass

November 22, 2013

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There's nothing like taking some family time at the local public library when the kids are out of school during the holidays.

It makes for a wonderful afternoon. Moms and dads and kids together, browsing, discovering new books, finding old classics to read again.

But that's not all a family will find at the library. There's something else the children will never forget:

Porn.

Specifically, sexually excited human animals, predominantly male, operating under the belief they are protected by the First Amendment, watching pornography at the Chicago Public Library and other libraries, in full view of patrons.

Children often wander past the tables, they look up to see naked bodies on the screens, the dead eyes of the actors, hips moving, all the rest of it.

It happened to Jason Carter, 41, of the North Side, who called to tell me of taking his two little boys, 7 and 9, to the library in the Bucktown neighborhood.

"As we were walking by the rows of computers — and my son was two feet behind me — he kind of stopped," Carter said.

"I didn't know anything about it until we got over to the stacks and he was visibly shaking," Carter said, describing his 9-year-old.

"I said, 'What's wrong?' And he said, 'I don't want to tell you.' And I said, 'What is it?'

"He said, 'Well, I just walked by a computer and there's a man over there looking at stuff he shouldn't be looking at.'"

Carter told his son he'd take care of it, though his son didn't want him to get involved.

"No, no!" Carter recalled his son saying. "Papi! Don't!"

If you're a parent, that rings true. Children don't like confrontation. It upsets them. But Carter had to find out. He told the boys to stay put and he walked back to where the man was looking at a video.

"I went over there and sure enough, he was looking at a graphic porn video right in the middle of the library," Carter recalled.

Carter took a piece of paper and wrote a note about what was happening and passed it to a security guard. Then he walked back over to his boys, figuring the problem would be solved.

The security guard, a woman, came up to Carter and offered an amazing explanation so his sons could hear.

"She said, 'He's allowed to look at that unless he's looking at kiddie porn,'" Carter recalled.

Carter was so stunned he couldn't believe what he'd just heard.

"I was speechless," he said. "I was ready to explode. I wanted to cry. I wanted to shout! I just couldn't believe it."

He was still angry the next day, when he attended a Chicago Public Library board meeting and complained.

The sad thing is, he isn't the first parent to complain about pornography inadvertently seen by children in libraries. And he won't be the last.

It happens in Chicago, in the suburbs, in towns across the country.

I don't want to be the thought police here. If Americans want to look at such stuff in the privacy of their own homes, that's their business. But it has no place in a library supported by your tax dollars, where children can walk by, look up, and see.

Deborah Caldwell Stone, deputy director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, said Internet filters are placed on computers used by children. But with adults, it's different.

"Libraries can only do so much when accessing content that isn't illegal," Stone said.

Really? Then taxpayers should help by doing a bit more, like refusing to allow one cent to go to libraries that don't have any common sense.

Ruth Lednicer, director of marketing and communications for the Chicago Public Library, said yes, Carter's complaint was verified to the board.

Lednicer said the current policy is to allow free access — to legal sites, even legal porn — as long as what's on the screen doesn't disturb others.

So if you complain, a security guard is supposed to ask the sexually aroused degenerate to move to another spot in the library.

Yet a mom or dad shouldn't have to be the one to complain. The degenerate could become angry. And parents with children don't need that type of confrontation. All that hassle ruins the quality family time.

"But our staff doesn't want to play the role of police, to tell people, 'You're looking at a banned video. That looks too pornographic,'" Lednicer told me.

If the lawyers and politicians have decided that librarians shouldn't monitor the video screens, then who should police the libraries?

The 9-year-olds?

Jason Carter said that porn is still being viewed out in the open at his neighborhood library. He says his children don't want to return.

The city, he said, has a responsibility to protect the families.

"Instead they are protecting the rights of the perverts and the sex offenders who use the library to 'meet their needs,'" he said in an email to me.

"I will not take my kids back. My last line to the board was 'The library is supposed to be a place where kids can be safe, where they can dream. Instead, my son had a nightmare.'"

The boy might forget. But the father won't.

He'll always remember that special library time with his little boys.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass