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Librarians police internet porn

Staff writer

Surfing the web for pornography can get you banned from Hillsboro Public Library.

In the wake of the latest of several incidents in which what was considered inappropriate material was displayed in children’s view on a library computer, library director Cathy Fish has redoubled efforts to keep the library safe for children.

The library’s internet policy requires patrons to sign an agreement about using the internet in the library.

Misuse of computers in any way can result in loss of computer privileges. Library staff occasionally check history files maintained by web browsers to determine patron usage.

Additional technological protection comes from software that filters out obvious porn sites.

The policies stem from the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act.

“To comply with policy we have to have software, but there are ways to work around all of that if a person is intent on accessing inappropriate sites,” Fish said.

The software, shared among all libraries in a state consortium, is administered by the State Library of Kansas.

If a patron wants to access a site that has been blocked, librarians legally must unblock the site, Fish said.

Once a user shuts down the internet browser, the block automatically is put back into place.

Some unblocking requests are legitimate — to view technical or misclassified material, for example.

“Before the school had laptops, we had kids coming in to do research for various topics, and sometimes sites would be blocked based on a keyword,” Fish said. “Now blocking has become more sophisticated, but if someone wanted to access a certain blog that might be blocked, we can shut off the block for that particular person.”

However, after a site has been unblocked, if a patron seems to be looking at what librarians consider inappropriate content, the user violates library rules.

“In the past, we’ve tapped the person on the shoulder, told them it’s inappropriate and that it violates our internet policy,” Fish said.

One thing that concerns Fish is lack of funding to allow for separate areas in which adults and children can view websites. As is, children can sometimes see what adults are looking at.

“Children can pass by our computers at any time,” she said. “We just have to have a zero tolerance policy.

“We had an incident recently where some little girls saw some inappropriate pictures, but they didn’t contact us. They waited until they got home, and then we weren’t able to find out who it was.”

The incident was not the first, according to Fish.

Marion City Library has similar policies, librarian Janet Marler said.

“Our computers are in eye’s reach so we can keep track of what is going on,” Marler said. “We do have a rules sheet that says what’s allowed and what’s not allowed, and it does say on there no pornography.”

Along with pornographic material, the library forbids excessive loud behavior and anything deemed unsafe for children.

“It’s not just pornographic material,” Marler said. “If they are behaving in any unsafe or rude manor, that would probably be the same thing.”

If library patrons walk past someone surfing inappropriate websites, it’s best to let librarians know as soon as possible, Fish said.

“If somebody does notice something, we want to know right away so we can address it right away,” Fish said. “We want to be a safe place for kids.”

Last modified June 16, 2016

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