adult may have accessed child pornography
at groton library
concerns raised about facility's computer
day staff writer, groton
published on 1/5/2006
- town councilor james l. streeter called on the town to implement
stronger safeguards and increased internet controls that would
prevent pornography from being viewed on the publicly accessed
computers at the groton public library, especially in the presence
streeter told the council tuesday that he learned the town
was investigating an incident in which "an adult male was
found to have accessed, watched and downloaded child pornography
from one of the public computers at the groton public library."
"i want to look out for the morals of our children. public
tax dollars are paying for" these computers, streeter said
wednesday. "i'm not trying to restrict anybody. if they
want to view pornography that's up to them, but if they use
the public's computers there have to be restrictions."
police chief kelly m. fogg confirmed wednesday that police
were investigating an incident involving one of the computers
at the library. he said police were called by library staff
shortly after noon dec. 12 about "a library patron, possibly
viewing child pornography."
possession of child pornography is illegal.
the patron was observed by an astute library staff member,
fogg said. police have identified the man, but have declined
to name him because the case is still under investigation.
fogg did say the computer involved wasn't located in the children's
section of the library.
the library, which has provided internet access since the
mid-1990s, has computers available at the children's division,
young adult section, adult area and a classroom. the classroom
is supervised and all the other computers have been strategically
placed next to or in view of librarians' desks.
library director alan benkert declined comment on the incident
streeter referred to, but the librarian said he wanted to reassure
the public that the library does utilize filtering software
and "comply with the children's internet protection act
and any other law" governing online access.
"we want to make sure people realize that we do have
quite a bit of control of what goes on here. we make every reasonable
effort to control the use," benkert said wednesday. the
library, under the conditions of receiving federal monies, had
to install filtering software in its computers as of july 2004.
but in compliance with a u.s. supreme court ruling, the library
does afford patrons age 17 and older the ability to ask library
staff to temporarily turn off the filtering software "for
bona fide research or other lawful purposes," benkert said.
that internet policy is posted along the three sides of the
horseshoe area for the computers set aside for adult use. this
area, according to the policy, could only be used by patrons
who were in sixth grade or above. children younger than grade
six can use the computers in the children's section, but the
child must be at least 9 years old and accompanied by an adult.
benkert said adult users have regularly requested the filters
to be disabled because they block access to legitimate web sites.
he estimated 100 to 200 people a day use the library's computers.
“filters don't work perfectly," he said. "filters
work on words. they can't see pictures ... we try to buy the
best filters we can afford and that the programmers can write.
"all of our computers are supervised to the best of our
abilities. we turn the screens toward the public areas so the
staff can check them. we don't have any private places,"
benkert said staff members have approached and asked patrons
not to visit a web site if the site was deemed inappropriate
for such a public venue.
the library, which has a five-page policy that governs internet
use, has also notified users that any illegal use of library
computers will be reported to police.
streeter said the library's policy and monitoring were still
not enough to protect the children.
he said he has seen a mixed crowd of young and adult patrons
using the computers in the adult section. he is concerned about
the child sitting next to an adult who had the filters disabled.
"i think it's inappropriate in our library to have the
possibility of pornography being viewed by an adult with a child
sitting next to him. it's a crime," he said. "i can
readily concur with the free-speech issue. there are ways to
control it. one way could be to have adults in a separate room,
where the kids would not have any contact or have a chance to
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