- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2000

An Oregon librarian who conducted a nationwide survey found more than 2,000 complaints about pornography in public libraries.

These are "just the tip of the iceberg," said David Burt. His report, released yesterday, found 472 reports of children improperly accessing pornography on public library computers.

The American Library Association (ALA) "refuses to admit that any problem even exists," said Mr. Burt, who works in Lake Oswego, Ore., and runs Filtering Facts, a group that promotes the use of software filters on public library computers.

"The truth is that America's libraries are increasingly becoming dirty bookstores and peepshows open to children and funded by taxpayers," said Janet Parshall, a leader of the Family Research Council, which mailed Mr. Burt's requests for information to 14,000 libraries and published his report.

Judith Krug, an ALA official, yesterday questioned Mr. Burt's findings.

"We have almost no evidence of any influx or even a small number of concerns about accessing pornography on the Internet by anyone," she said from the trade group's offices in Chicago.

Between 1998 and 1999, she added, the Virginia Library Association did a statewide survey of its libraries. Out of 581,000 Internet sessions, there were 30 complaints, she said. "Two complaints dealt with content" and the rest were that there weren't enough computers and not enough time allotted for the computers.

"So," Ms. Krug concluded, "I don't know how [Mr. Burt and his colleagues] got their figures, where they got their figures and what they are focusing on, in terms of 'pornography.' "

Mr. Burt's report, "Dangerous Access, 2000 Edition: Uncovering Internet Pornography in America's Libraries," cited complaints about:

• Adults regularly accessing pornography on library computers, blocking others' use of the computers and shocking library patrons of all ages.

• Adults exposing children to pornography.

• Attempted molestations of children.

• Harassment of staff.

Most problems with pornography in libraries go unreported, said Mr. Burt, noting that 70 percent of public libraries found reasons not to answer his requests.

Recently, 47 employees at the Minneapolis Public Library protested about being subjected to pornography on a daily basis at their workplaces. "It is indescribably disturbing," said librarian Wendy Adamson.

The Minneapolis Public Library, meanwhile, documented only three pornography-related incidents, said Mr. Burt.

Ms. Krug noted that of the 47 Minnesota Public Library employees, "only one is a librarian."

Others who appeared at yesterday's event were Rep. Ernest Istook, Oklahoma Republican, who is pushing legislation to have public libraries use filters on computers; Heidi Borton, a Seattle librarian who quit her job of 10 years because it forced her to help teens access pornography; and Alx Bradley, 13, who was exposed to explicit sexual acts in her library in Santa Clara County, Calif.

"That was the last day I felt safe at the library," Alx said yesterday.

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