- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 3, 2007

Pornography doesn’t belong in public libraries. That’s not prudism, that’s morality. That’s not censorship, that’s common decency. And the libraries better listen.

Because in Rochester, N.Y., an irate County Executive Maggie Brooks said a week ago that if the Monroe County Public Library does not stop allowing access to pornography on its computers, she will yank the more than $6 million she provides the library system each year.

That’s a big club, and Maggie is prepared to swing it. Anybody who thinks she’s bluffing is in for a rude awakening. And if library administrators want to get in a fight with her, they better realize she can eat them alive. You don’t mess with a mama bear’s cubs, and that’s exactly what Maggie thinks the library is doing.

Here’s the background.

A few weeks ago, a father visiting the library with his son noticed some of the patrons at the Internet terminals were viewing pornographic images. The man was angered by this as he didn’t believe it was appropriate for an area where children congregated. Also, he didn’t think taxpayer-funded equipment should be used for such filth. It was offensive to his morals, values and sensitivities.

So he called the TV station. Specifically, he called Brett Davidsen at Channel 10. And Channel 10 went into the library with a hidden camera, several times. And all but once the camera found people watching pornography on the Internet in a manner clearly visible to passersby.

On one of the visits, Brett Davidsen found a man openly looking at a site pushing boy pornography — on the same floor as the library’s children’s center. This man, it turned out, was on probation for fondling a little boy. When Brett Davidsen showed videotape of the man to the State Police, they took the matter to a judge and the man’s probation was revoked, sending him to jail.

It turns out you can look at porn on library computers. If you’re 17 or over, you just have to show an ID and the filters come off and you can look at anything you want. At least one of the patrons Channel 10 caught was watching a video of naked people having sex — visible to all.

Brett Davidsen’s report aired Monday night. On Tuesday people talked about it. By midday Wednesday Maggie Brooks was in front of the TV cameras reading the riot act to the library. And she threatened the nuclear option.

“Mortified” by the library’s insolent response to Channel 10’s concerns about the openness of the Internet porn, Maggie decided the best way to get the library’s attention was to take a 2x4 to its head. So she threw down the gauntlet.

“I am demanding that our Central Library take immediate action to halt the public viewing of pornography and other graphic materials,” she wrote to the library’s director. “And should the library choose to ignore this reasonable demand to protect our community’s children, I am prepared to exit the annual agreement with the City of Rochester and defund library operations at the earliest possible date.

“Simply put, I refuse to allow any further County tax dollars to flow to a facility that has failed to protect our children.”

How many tax dollars? More than $6.5 million.

Like I said, she’s a mama bear and the library has messed with her cubs and better make peace right away or she’s going to rip its head off.

Which is exactly the right thing to do.

This issue has been around for quite some time. It has been brought to the library’s attention repeatedly. Library officials have condescendingly said their loyalty is to the First Amendment — a perverted and mistaken understanding of the First Amendment. Somehow the librarians feel the First Amendment guarantees perverts taxpayer-supplied porn on taxpayer-supplied computers in a taxpayer-supplied building. Maggie doesn’t feel that way.

Maggie feels the library has to be safe for children and families. Maggie feels the library has to be safe for people whose values and sensitivities are offended by the presence of pornography and other offensive and immoral things. Maggie is right.

This isn’t what libraries are for. Libraries are for challenging young minds and expanding old ones. Libraries are for learning and increasing one’s knowledge, understanding and usefulness. Libraries are to lift up a community, not tear it down.

So Maggie has drawn a line in the sand. By doing so, she has done her duty in a noble and courageous way. She has served the interest of constituents and protected the safety of children.

Pornography doesn’t belong in public libraries. And Maggie Brooks is going to make sure it isn’t there. Her constituents and their children owe her a debt of gratitude.

BOB LONSBERRY

Commentator and talk show host in Rochester, N.Y. Online at BobLonsberry.com.

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