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Library patrons complain over those viewing porn

A number of area public libraries have fielded complaints from patrons over other patrons’ use of library computers to view porn, leading to debate between whether viewing such images at a library is offensive behavior or a First Amendment right.

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SEATTLE — There’s a controversy brewing in the Seattle Public Library system after a local mom says she saw someone watching pornography on a library computer. And it turns out there’s nothing she could do to stop it.

Well, the library says this is really an issue about censorship and they’re not going to stop their customers from accessing information that is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

porn at libraryStill, some parents were shocked to hear that just about anybody can look at porn – right out in the open.

“It’s just shocking, i feel like i can’t really do anything,” said patron Ebony Booker.

Nearly a dozen computers sit out in the open at the Beacon Hill library branch. The desktops are available for anyone to cruise the Web, look for a job, or even look at porn.

“I’m sorry, somebody looking at porn, that should be something you do at home alone,” said patron Fredrick Reid.

The latest complaint was made at the Beacon Hill branch. The mom said she and her kids won’t come back until the computers are moved into a separate room away from the rest of the library.

The computers in the nearby children’s section cannot access adult content from the Internet; filtering software keeps the stuff from popping up. But the other computers don’t use any censoring software at all, and that concerns some parents.

“I just feel like it’s not very safe and I wouldn’t want my child to come across that information without my approval,” added Booker.

But not everyone is upset over this issue. Some people say there are legitimate, academic reasons to look up pornography on a public computer.

“A UW student was doing a paper on feminism and pornography, and they needed to do research for a dissertation,” said patron Zoe Wilson.

Seattle Public Libraries said they will call police if they suspect someone is looking at child porn or anything else that’s illegal.

In fact, in August, police arrested a 61-year-old man who they say was looking at child porn inside the Monroe library. The man was charged with viewing child pornography.

But most of the library patrons in Seattle agreed that policing the Internet should be a job for parents, not library employees.

“Libraries are not babysitters,” said Erin Okuno. “When I bring my kids here, I need to know where they are at all times and what they are looking at. Whether it’s a book, whether it’s a computer, whether it’s a magazine, until they’re old enough to make those decisions, I’m still their parent. “

And it’s not just the computers – the Wi-Fi is also free to the public without censorship.

And just like the library doesn’t censor what books people check out, they won’t censor what Web sites people look at either.

MONROE — One day after the arrest, Monroe Public Library patrons are just learning about what happened in what is a big family-gathering place here.

MonroeLibraryMost were floored by the allegation.

“Not right. It’s not good. And looking at pornography (is) damaging, not just to the person who is looking at it but to the children who are being exploited for that,” library patron Wally Anderson said.

“I have a 13-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter and it’s sad. When I was little I could go here and be completely fine, but now it’s like you have to be completely on guard of exactly what your kids are doing at all times,” library patron Stephanie Baird said.

It happened around 5 p.m. Monday.

A witness says she walked by 61-year-old Terry Farr and saw what appeared to be child pornography on his computer screen.

“She walked by actually twice, you know, kind of like did I see what I actually just saw? And she went immediately to library officials and told them what they saw,” Monroe Police Department spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.

They called police and an officer arrived in minutes.

“The officer went up to the male that was sitting at the computer, but he could see as he was approaching, he was clicking away on that keyboard really quick and when he got there it was just the log-in screen,” Willis said.

The officer found next to the computer a couple of pages of what appeared to be photographs of young girls they believe Farr printed out.

He was arrested and the library computer along with some type of digital media device Farr was carrying were confiscated.

Police plan to search both for evidence.

“It’s pretty disgusting. I’m not even sure why they have it available in the library in the first place. They shouldn’t,” library patron Kay Fisher said.

The Monroe library as well as others around the state and some 5,000 school districts all over the country use a filtering system called Lightspeed.

It’s mandatory on computers in the children’s area of the library but it is optional on adult computers, so adults can choose to turn it off and they are warned about accessing illegal content, but it is either on or off, filtering or not, there’s no in-between.

Library officials say in spite of that shortcoming it is among the best software of its kind on the market today.

MonroeLibraryMONROE — Police in Monroe arrested a 61-year-old local man for allegedly viewing child porn on public computers in the library.

According to court documents, Terry G. Farr was taken into custody just after 5 p.m. Monday. Police say another library patron saw the content on the computer the man was using.  She alerted the librarian and the librarian called police.

When the officer arrived, he says he saw Farr trying to quickly shut the computer down.  Farr refused to talk with police but the officer says he found printed copies on anime pornography sitting next to the computer and the witness says she also saw real child porn involving girls who appeared to be 3 to 4 years old.

Farr was in court Monday afternoon. He could be charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.

Local News
05/02/13

Child porn bust at Snohomish Public Library

snohomish librarySNOHOMISH  —  Snohomish Police were dispatched to the Snohomish Public Library April 20 after getting a call about a man viewing child porn on a library computer.

An officer arrived and questioned Steven D. Geue , 55, of Snohomish.

Investigators determined that Geue downloaded at least 29 images from the library computer to his cell phone, and arrested him Wednesday night.

Geue is now charged with multiple counts of child porn possession.

The computer system at Snohomish Public Library has access to the internet without filters that prohibit pornography from being viewed.

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