Julie Howe has taken to the Lake City Live neighborhood blog to tell her story of a man who she says was watching hard-core pornography on a computer at the Lake City Library on a late Sunday afternoon earlier this month. Howe was with her 7- and 10-year-old daughters who she left in the children's section while she went to peruse the DVD movies on hand.
As Howe recalls on the blog:
...I noticed that a man was watching hard core pornography (including anal penetration & other adult content) on a computer where the screen was facing out into the library. I told the librarian and asked for help in having him move to a more discreet location.
She could see the screen from the information desk where we were standing and was sympathetic, but said that the library doesn't censor content and they can't be in the business of monitoring what their patrons are doing at any given computer. I then asked the man to please move to another computer. He declined.
Howe is not letting this go away. She says she's had "extensive conversations" with the library about the incident and has talked with police and local officials.
The man's right to access constitutionally protected information is fully protected (which I'm not in argument with) but our right not to be inadvertent viewers is not. The library is apologetic, but devoted to its guiding principle of supporting intellectual freedom, and I detected no urgency to ensure that not one more child is exposed to pornography in a Seattle Public Library.
Seattle Weekly spoke briefly this afternoon with Steve DelVecchio, a supervisor at the Lake City branch. He declined to discuss the Jan. 22 incident, saying all inquiries needed to be addressed to Andra Addison, spokeswoman for the Seattle Public Library.
Addison said that libraries don't filter content on their computers, unless they are in the kids' section.
"We don't tell people what they can view," added Addision. "We want to give people choices. Our role is to facilitate access to information," she said. "And we do that without scrutiny, without judgment and without censorship."
As for Howe:
I told the library that I will do my best to get this in the public forum as people need to know what's going on and the potential risks to them and their children of being exposed to adult content while visiting the library.