Internet in Libraries

June 29, 2000

Some people are beginning to say that going to your public library may be a lot like going to the neighborhood adult bookstore. Well, maybe it's not that bad, but the presence of computers linked to the Internet in public libraries has increased the concern over pornography.

Librarian David Burt discovered the problem was much greater than many people imagined. His report entitled Dangerous Access, 2000 Edition: Uncovering Internet Pornography in America's Libraries documents the shocking trend. He sent Freedom of Information Act requests to nearly all of the nation's public library systems. Then, with the help of a few news stories, he documented 2,062 incidents involving Internet pornography in public libraries. These included five cases of attempted molestation, 106 cases of adults exposing children to pornography, and 472 cases of children accessing pornography. And given the number of libraries that refused to respond, these numbers are no doubt just a tip of the iceberg.

Even more shocking was that in 172 of the incidents, librarians described crimes being committed. Sadly, only six of these were reported to the police. And analysis of computer logs at three urban libraries showed thousands of incidents that went unreported. Again, the numbers here must represent just a small fraction of all the incidents.

In response to this growing trend, Representative Chip Pickering of Mississippi and Representative Bob Franks of New Jersey have introduced a Child Protection Act. It would require filtering on computers in schools and public libraries receiving a government subsidy known as the E-rate.

This seems like is a common sense requirement. Children and adults are assaulted by pornographic images often left intentionally on computer screens or in printers. Libraries are becoming more dangerous because these Internet links draw unsavory people to these unfiltered computers. It's time to protect our children.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.