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Man watching porn at library prompts mom’s petition

Lincoln Park mom TamarMaple 45 left with her sZach husbSimposted petitiChange.org about blocking internet pornography public libraries plans go her

Lincoln Park mom Tamara Maple, 45, left, with her son Zach and husband, Simon, posted a petition on Change.org about blocking internet pornography in public libraries and plans to go to her Alderman for help, whether she gets signatures or not.

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Updated: May 14, 2013 6:02AM



After one River North mom saw a library patron using one of the free computers to watch porn, it took but a day before a fellow mom drafted a petition to block porn at public libraries.

Tamara Maple, 45, posted the petition on Change.org shortly after reading the fellow mom’s story on an online parenting forum they both frequent.

“Once I saw it, I just felt compelled to take action,” Maple said. “I certainly don’t support censorship, but at the same time I think there’s a time and a place for things like that. It’s important for people to feel safe and comfortable in a public place like a library.”

The Lincoln Park resident plans to take it to her alderman, Scott Waguespack (32nd), whether her petition garners a flurry of signatures or not.

Maple, mother to 5-year-old Zach, is especially concerned that kids could easily be exposed to the explicit content.

“How do they know that the child isn’t going to press the back space and end up viewing pornographic images?” she asked.

The library’s open-floor layout worries the River North mom who saw the incident, and who spoke on condition of anonymity. She noted that the content was easily viewable from the check-out desk.

She’s thankful her 6-month-old wasn’t older when they saw it: “I was imagining standing there with my 10-year-old son and him saying, ‘Mommy, what’s that?’”

But blocking porn, libraries say, may do more harm than good.

“Even if you do have filters on computers, they provide that false sense of security,” said Bob Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Library Association. “There is some material that some people would consider to be inappropriate that still can be accessed, and at the same time, they can block access to constitutionally protected speech.”

Doyle said that the decision whether or not content should be blocked is left up to the local libraries. Ruth Lednicer, director of marketing and communications for Chicago Public Library, said this is why Chicago libraries don’t use filters.

“In terms of pornography, it is legal. If someone complains, we will ask someone to go to a more appropriate site,” she said. “We don’t use filters because filters filter out things you legitimately want to see, but then don’t filter out other things that you would want to block. That’s the stance we take at this time.”

Lednicer said libraries have separate computers for children and adults. The computers for adults have privacy screens that block content from other patrons unless they’re standing directly behind the computer. She said the screen “looks like a shade of some type.”

If there was supposed to be a shade on this computer, it wasn’t there Wednesday, the River North mom said.

The mom took her baby to the library, at 310 W. Division, about 3 p.m. on April 3. She said a man was watching the explicit material on a computer 10 feet in front of the circulation desk and was grunting and making other “really inappropriate noises.”

She told a librarian, whose reaction wasn’t what she predicted.

“She didn’t seem taken back by it at all,” she said. “She said nonchalantly that (libraries) can’t censor legal material. It’s certainly not something I ever would’ve imagined would be legal. It was just a really vulgar thing. . . . It wasn’t some mild pornography.”

Lednicer said the woman’s complaint about porn wasn’t the library’s first.

“It’s not common, but it happens from time to time,” Lednicer said. “The proper response of the librarian should have been to say, ‘Someone has complained. We ask you to go to another site.’ ”



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