Ottawa Library Allows Patrons to Watch Hardcore Porn in View of Children

Ottawa Library Allows Patrons to Watch Hardcore Porn in View of Children

The Ottawa Public Library allows the public to view hardcore pornography on tax-provided computers within view of children.

"My 13-year-old came up to me and said, 'Mom, I think there's somebody watching something inappropriate over there,'" mother of two Jennifer St. Pierre told CBC News. "I went over and sure enough this man was watching very graphic porn."

The concerned mother told library staff about the man watching pornography in a high-traffic area of the Greenboro branch and she was told anyone 18 and older can openly watch hardcore pornography at Ottawa libraries.  

Branch operations manager Catherine Seaman told St. Pierre that library staff have no code of ethics or standards when it comes to legal videos online. Staff do not monitor viewing for offensive content, but if someone complains, they ask the porn user to go to a more secluded computer.

Seaman characterized porn watching as "accessing information" and explained the library's policy is to "respect (patrons') intellectual freedom." The most the library will do is ask patrons to "respect the sensibilities of others."

The Ottawa Public Library has censoring filters to block what it calls "hate literature," but nothing to block legal hardcore pornography and its many depicted perversions. Seaman explained that content is not subject to standards of decency because what is offensive to one person may not be offensive to another.

"The definition of pornography is very dependent on your own sensibilities," Seaman said, adding that the library has screens to reduce what children and other patrons see.

As far as little children, preadolescents and minor teens seeing pornography, Seaman laid the responsibility on parents to monitor what children are accessing online, and what their children see others access with library computers.

"If (parents) are letting their children go off on their own, that risk (of seeing hardcore pornography) is going to be there," she told St. Pierre.

The July incident left St. Pierre frustrated and deeply concerned about the welfare of her daughters. Ava is 13 and Ella is 11.

"I was really angry," she complained to CBC News. "It opened up a dialogue I never thought I'd be having with my 11-year-old about what that man was watching. It was not right for me to have to do that at that age."

Ottawa attorney Michael Spratt suggested that the library's policy of allowing anything that's legal for adults may be short-sighted. With cases of open viewing in public, material should perhaps be more scrutinized.

Spratt said that even though it may be legal, watching hardcore pornography "in a public place, visible to members of the public including children, may be considered to be an indecent act."

Public indecency can be punished by up to two years in jail, he noted. However, it would be up to a judge to decide what constitutes public indecency.

In the United States, New York City library officials say hardcore pornography is protected by the First Amendment and they won’t do anything to discourage it.

Ditto the Chicago Public Libraries. One library patron criticized the policy, notingthat her neighborhood library computers were right next to the children’s reading area.

As the New York Post put it, “Electronic smut falls under the heading of free speech and the protection of the First Amendment, library officials say.”

“What they’re doing is publicly funding an appetite for the most debased fare available,” Catholic League President Bill Donohue charged.

In 2000, the Children’s Internet Protection Act requires all schools and libraries to install filters on public computers to block obscenity and child pornography. Many libraries simply remodeled a separate “adult” area where filters are easily turned off.

 

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