Dustin Siggins

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Illinois mom attacks permissive library porn policy after stumbling on patron viewing smut

Dustin Siggins
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Nov. 12, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Public libraries are taxpayer-funded areas where families can bring their children to read, socialize, and sometimes use the library's computers. But according to local mom Megan Fox, in Orland Park, Illinois, the public library is also a haven for sex offenders and pornography users.

According to Fox, on October 4, she tried to use a computer in the children’s area of the library, and was directed by staff to use an adult computer area. There she says she discovered a man looking at pornography. When she complained to staff, she claims she was told, “We have a lot of” porn viewers. Fox says she had her children with her.

After filing numerous complaints – including unanswered ones to the library director and the library board – Fox received a report from the Orland police that she said shows the library “has been for many years a haven for sex offenders who feel very comfortable exposing themselves to women and children,” among other illegal actions.

Fox says that the library’s own internal records also showed that on at least one occasion a man was clearly looking at child pornography and despite the presence of two witnesses the staff took no action. Another alleged incident that took place at the Library included a patron filing a complaint “that a man was fondling himself at a computer station.” The library staff’s action was limited to moving the woman who made the report “to another computer.” This alleged incident took place in 2008.

According to library spokesperson Bridget Bitman, the library “does not tolerate illegal activity.” However, while child and teen computers have filters for online activity, Bitman acknowledged that adult computers are not prevented from having pornography on them, as long as the content is legal. She said that allowing legal pornography viewing is protected under the First Amendment. 

Fox refuted Bitman’s claim, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. American Library Association, Inc., which she says allows libraries latitude to ban pornographic material without violating the First Amendment. The ACLU, which opposed the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision, seems to agree with Fox’s interpretation of the decision. However, the ACLU also says that under the decision, people over the age of 17 are allowed to request unblocking.

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Fox has requested 12 years of FOIA documents, and incidents related to computer usage and suspicious activity at the library. She says she found that there were seven incidents where police were called because someone acted inappropriately either on computers or in other ways, and staff notified police. Fox also says FOIA-garnered records show on at least five occasions sex crimes were committed at the library when police were not called, in violation of the library’s policy. That includes three alleged cases of public masturbation, one case related to child porn, and one case of indecent exposure.

Fox took her complaints to the library board in an October meeting, a portion of which was videotaped. In the video, the board’s lawyer told Fox, “Frankly, you have no right to demand answers,” citing limitations of the Freedom of Information Act. 

In a phone call with LifeSiteNews, Bitman called Fox’s initial account of what happened to her in October into question, explaining that two staff members never saw Fox’s children with her – though a video Fox took outside the library includes a brief interaction with her daughter. Bitman said library policy at the time was that no adults were allowed to use the computers in the children’s area without actually having their children present, and that was why she was directed to the adult area. 

She also insinuated Fox’s accusations against the library might be related to a book Fox is writing about libraries. Fox, however, says the book was supposed to be about book reviews she has done, but after this series of incidents the angle has changed. One of the incidents includes the police being called on Fox and Chicago political activist Kevin Dujan for handing leaflets out on library premises several days after the alleged initial incident. According to Fox, the police came and explained to Library Director Mary Weimer – who made the call – that Fox was not acting illegally. 

Fox told LifeSiteNews.com she believes there is a direct correlation between the 12 documented incidents over a dozen years and the presence of pornography at Orland. She has also requested police incidents at four area libraries – Tinley Park, Mokena, Palos Park, and New Lenox – that ban pornography, and says she will be comparing Orland to the other four libraries for police incidents related to sex crimes. 

Orland is not the only area library that has faced controversy for allowing the viewing of pornographic material. A Chicago-area CBS affiliate reported in 2007 that one library saw “33 sex crimes…over the last three years,” and “convicted sex offenders use libraries to access porn, and maybe even to find victims.” 

As a result of Fox’s complaints and investigation, the library has announced it is changing its policies. It will now be checking the identification of all people using the adult computers, and IDs will be held at desks while people use computers. Bitman also told LifeSiteNews.com it recognized “a gap in services” to the parents of children. Parents will now have two family areas where kids can be around while parents are on computers, rather than strictly have kids in the presence of parents.   

The library board is holding a meeting to discuss possible policy changes on Monday at 7 p.m. Bitman said the meeting time may change. 

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