Porn viewed at Freeland Library
June 25, 2008 · Updated 12:05 PM
"So-called privacy screens on computers at the Freeland Library aren't private enough for at least two patrons.Brenda Sinclair said she was in the children's section last week when she glanced at a nearby computer where a man with white hair and a tan jacket was sitting. She couldn't help but see a naked woman in an unseemly pose on the screen, even though she quickly averted her eyes. Sinclair said the screen in question could be seen from both the children's area and the book checkout desk. As she sees it, the computer privacy screens which cover the monitors aren't doing their job.Coincidentally, a woman Sinclair doesn't even know sent a letter to The South Whidbey Record that complained about the same thing. Jann Saint-Pierre described an identical incident that happened to her and her 15-year-old daughter on Friday, June 30.Saint-Pierre said she was standing at the checkout counter when she glanced at a computer and saw an old geezer with a U.W. baseball cap looking at a porn site.I was shocked, and I'm not making any value judgments here, Saint-Pierre said Monday. It was just awful. I was too embarrassed to say anything to the librarian. We just hustled out of there.Saint-Pierre said she doesn't mind others looking at porn, But I don't want to look at it at the library.Sinclair said she did complain to Freeland branch manager Joanne Harmon but was told that If it's not child porn there's nothing they can do.Harmon said Friday that she had talked to Sinclair about the incident, which she regretted. The privacy screens appear to be working as intended. I'm not sure there's anything better, she said. But if you stand back a ways you can see . . . you can catch a glimpse. However, she added, onlookers usually have to stand directly behind the screen to see what is being viewed, and the computer operator's head then often blocks the view.Sinclair said she made no special effort to see the offending screen, and said others in the library when she was there could see it as well.Harmon said the Freeland Library recently added privacy screens to every computer available to the public. In her opinion, they are effective. When computer classes are taught the screens have to be removed so the instructor can see what the student is doing on the monitor.The Sno-Isle Regional Library board has struggled with the issue of pornography on the Internet for years, according to Mary Kelly, community relations manager for the system. The board has always tried to protect people's right to view and read what they want.Kelly said Friday that complaints from the public have dropped since a policy was adopted two years ago to provide one or more filtered computers in each library. Software on filtered computers blocks out porn sites, but can also hinder more legitimate research efforts. Freeland's Harmon said her library has one filtered computer which is clearly marked.In addition, all Sno-Isle computers are outfitted with privacy screens. Kelly said they minimize the shock value to passersby, but she acknowledged they aren't perfect. It kind of depends on where you're standing. It's unfortunate when that happens, she said, referring to Sinclair's complaint.Prior to two years ago, all Sno-Isle computers linked to the Internet were unfiltered, Kelly said. In the 18 months before the decision to provide at least one filtered computer at each branch, Sno-Isle had received 24 written complaints about pornography. Since then, there have been only three written complaints.The board responded to a concern in the community, Kelly said.Other than the filtered computers, Sno-Isle has no limitation on what patrons of any age can view, Kelly said. The one exception is child pornography, the viewing of which is a criminal offense. Sno-Isle has no record of which websites are being accessed, she added, and no effort is made to monitor what kids or adults are viewing.Sinclair isn't satisfied that the privacy screens are her only protection from people who view porn at the library. I'm not against them doing it, but I'm against them doing it in front of me, she said. I don't know where else to go for books. "