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9-Year-Old Finds Graphic Images on Library Computer

Acting on a complaint from the grandmother of a 9-year-old boy, the Oak Park (Ill.) Public Library shut down its children’s-area computers November 20 to purge any sexually explicit files from the machines’ “My Documents” storage area. The November 18 complaint was filed by Patricia Levy and her grandson, who found a sexually graphic image stored on the computer-drive area OPPL sets aside for patrons’ downloading convenience during their online sessions. The library does not filter online access, but its Internet policy prohibits the viewing or storage of sexually explicit images.

Although a library staff member quickly assured Levy that the inappropriate image had been erased, the boy showed his grandmother the same downloaded image a short time later during the same visit. The next day, Levy returned and found additional sexually explicit images on children’s department computers, according to the November 21 Chicago Tribune. She notified local police, who promised to consult with library officials although it was not clear that a crime had been committed.

“Pornographic material doesn’t have any place in the public library,” Levy told the Tribune, noting that since filtering can be done on home computers, “you can do it in the library.” Assistant Director James Madigan countered that “if we tell parents that we have filters, they will interpret that to mean their kids are safe and that they no longer have to monitor what their kids are doing.” He added that the incident is the library’s first such complaint since the year-old computer system was installed.

Posted November 24, 2003.