Mom's crusade to get porn out of library

SNOQUALMIE, Wash. - Alyx Barlament, 11, and a friend were recently studying at the Snoqualmie Library when she saw something she thought was too revealing.

"I was just looking at the computers and I saw this man looking at pornography. It was a little scary," said Alyx.

She alerted the librarian and says she was told, "if it is women then this is okay. It is within his rights."

Alyx called her mom, Meg Barlament, who says she immediately got into her car and drove to the library.

"If you are going to try to get me to understand protecting the rights of a man who is in here watching naked women where kids can walk by and see, you can just stop talking because I am not ever going to understand," said Barlament. "That is not okay."

King County Library System spokesperson, Julie Acteson, said in a statement that "it is a real balancing act to uphold the rights of individuals using public resources."

Acteson added library computers have a filter that restricts access to adult sites, but for people 18 and over, they can request to have the filter removed.

"It is maybe time to change it," said Barlament.

Barlament has started a campaign on Facebook and her 11-year-old has joined the fight.

"We are going to write a letter to the King County Council," said Alyx.

She says pornography steps away from the study room doesn't belong in the library.

Here is the full statement from the King County Library System:

KCLS realizes that this is a sensitive issue, and can raise strong emotions. It can be difficult and uncomfortable to be exposed to images we would prefer not to see, particularly so for our children. Unfortunately, that is one of the hazards of unrestricted computer access in public spaces, including libraries. That is why all of the KCLS computers in children's areas are filtered at the most restrictive level. This prevents access to 'adult' sites in children's areas, in strictest compliance with the federal Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

In addition, all KCLS library cards are issued with "moderate" filtering for all patrons, which minimizes access to potentially objectionable sites. Under the law, persons over 18 years of age may request to have this automatic filter removed.

In upholding our mission to provide free, open, and equal access to ideas and information, the King County Library System neither monitors nor censors what patrons–of any age–choose to read or view. Similarly, we do not prohibit patrons from accessing or viewing materials that are Constitutionally-protected under the First Amendment. Based on Supreme Court decisions, pornography–with the exception of portrayals of children–is Constitutionally-protected. If staff becomes aware that a patron is viewing child pornography, which is illegal, they will intervene immediately and alert the appropriate authorities.

We recognize that some patrons may view materials that are objectionable or offensive to others. We have explored many options to minimize unintentional exposure, though none can possibly be 100% effective:

— Filtering all children's area computers, and grouping other computers centrally in the library space has proven a better deterrent than placing computers in corners or separate rooms.

— KCLS installed privacy screens on all public computers to minimize the possibility of inadvertent viewing, but patrons can remove them. If staff becomes aware that a privacy screen has been removed, they will ask that it be replaced, but patrons are not required to use them. Consequently, there are times when a computer monitor might clearly be seen from any angle, but this is not against any law.

KCLS strives every day to create a safe and welcoming environment for all patrons in our libraries. We also rely on parents to supervise their children in the library as they would in any public space. And we encourage parents to report any situation that causes concern, so that staff can determine the best way to deal with the matter.

It is a real balancing act to uphold the rights of all individuals using public resources. In this case, adults have the right to access information without censorship. We do our best to help them be sensitive to the concerns of other patrons in our libraries. Protecting open access while also creating an environment where inadvertent viewing of pornographic content is minimized to the greatest degree possible remains a challenge and a focus.

I realize this information may not provide the answer you were hoping for, or even change your perspective. I do hope it gives you a better understanding of our policies, and the regulations behind them

Julie Acteson
KCLS Interim Director


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