The Chicago Public Library protects the open and rampant use of Internet pornography by library patrons. This blog is an attempt to bring awareness to this issue and enact change.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My response to Mary A. Dempsey

November 24, 2008

Mary A. Dempsey
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State St
Chicago, IL 60605

Dear Commissioner Dempsey:

Thank you for your response to my recent inquiries. I appreciate you taking the time to address the concerns that have been brought to your attention. This issue of rampant pornography use in our public library is indeed a complicated issue and a very serious one at that.

I appreciate the viewpoints that you’ve shared. However, I maintain my stance that it is important to protect the rights of children and those that do not want to be exposed to these images.

As it stands, patrons that choose to use pornography at my public library are able to do so openly. The privacy screens that are installed on the monitors are not effective in preventing other library patrons from seeing, without effort or consent, the pornography being displayed.

Although the Internet itself is not regulated, illegal activities are most certainly regulated. Child pornography is illegal, regardless of the fact that it can be accessed by means of the Internet. Because the Chicago Public Library claims that it does not allow patrons to view child pornography, it stands to reason that the CPL could extend similar measures to prevent all pornography from being on open display.

However, regardless of the legality of any pornography, according to Chicago Municipal Code 2-64-02, it is well within the rights of the Library Board of Directors to govern the library using their Statutory Authority. The Chicago Public Library already has several guidelines and regulations in place regarding many behaviors without concern for legality. For example, according to the Guidelines Governing the Use of the Library posted on the Chicago Public Library website, a patron can be asked to leave and possibly arrested if they neglect their personal hygiene so that it gives offense and constitutes a nuisance to other patrons. A patron can also be asked to leave if they are caught eating, drinking, smoking or sleeping. These behaviors are not illegal, but they are nonetheless banned in the Chicago Public Library.

Pornography is controversial and divisive. When people choose to view these explicit images openly it creates a threatening environment for those that don’t want to be exposed to them, especially when they are not able to voice their objections. All nearby patrons are exposed without consent or even fair warning, including children.

Although children do have their own computer area in the children’s section, many children accompany their parents on the third floor and some older children use the entire library, including the third floor computer area, without being accompanied by an adult. Just being in the general area of the computers on the third floor can expose our children to these graphic images. However, banning children from the third floor computer area is not the answer. Banning children from the third floor adult computer work area prevents single parents from using Internet services while accompanying their child at the library. It also does nothing to address the issue of adults who want to be protected from second-hand pornography.

I am requesting that pornography be banned from public display in my public library. At the very least we should provide truly private access for those choosing to view it. If this requires a separate room, then please do so. It is imperative that we protect our children and those that do not wish to be subjected to these images.


Amanda Bratschie

For ideas and suggestions of various ways to ban pornography from the public library, please see the enclosed article titled “Libraries Vary in Strategy on Porn”. (


Chicago Public Library Board of Directors
Karen Danczak Lyons - First Deputy Commissioner
Ruth Lednicer - Director, Marketing and Press

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pornography in Public: The Full Cover Story

Courtesy of WGN9.

Here's the complete story.
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Pornography in Public: The Teaser

WGN Channel 9 is airing this story tonight as their cover story: Surfing Porn in Public?

If you can watch this, or maybe tivo it and watch it later - please do. :)

Tuesday, November 25th
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A Response from the Library Commissioner

The images below are jpgs of the letter I received from the Library Commissioner, Mary A. Dempsey, in response to my concerns regarding open and rampant pornography use in the public library.

Please note: personal information has been blacked out for posting purposes.

(note the date, Saturday, November 15th)

(Note the postmark, Wednesday, November 19th)

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Monday, November 24, 2008

About Privacy (continued)

Library personnel have cited the right of "privacy" several times in regards to the mention of pornography use in our public library. They seem to think that there is an implied and completely understood right to privacy for patrons choosing to view these images in public - privacy expected to be honored by both library staff and fellow patrons.

My previous entry addresses the issue that public acts are by no means private. This entry is meant to deal with the underlying assumption that all patrons have a given right to absolute privacy in the public library.

If I understand this correctly, I believe that the 'privacy' so often referenced by library personnel is a very different type of privacy than the real privacy patrons can expect to have. Because I have searched the Chicago Public Library website and not found explicit direction that everyone will provide absolutely privacy for all patrons in the library, I must assume that the privacy so often mentioned is actually a distorted version of the Library Records Confidentiality Act.

As taken from the Chicago Public Library website:
Confidentiality of Patron and Circulation Records
Pursuant to (75 ILCS 70), the Library Records Confidentiality Act, patron and circulation records of the Chicago Public Library are strictly confidential and not subject to disclosure to the public or to any law enforcement officers except by court warrant. Library employees and any agents of the library are bound to observe this confidentiality.
This policy suggests that circulation records and registration information on specific patrons are to be kept confidential, within specific guidelines (for example, a search warrant would be a legal way to obtain this information). This does not suggest nor does it imply that a patron's public behaviors are also confidential. Being openly exposed to second-hand hard-core pornography is a very different thing than requesting information on what books another patron has checked out.

Again, this is not something that I'm trying to see. I am not purposefully invading anyone's privacy. Rather, all nearby library patrons, including children, are regularly exposed to graphic imagery without consent or even warning.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

About Privacy

Because I have been subject to second-hand pornography does not mean that I purposefully invaded the privacy of library patrons around me. I am not a nosy person and couldn't care less about what consenting adults do in the true privacy of their own residence. However, what a person does in public affects me directly. There is no privacy in a public area. This is similar to accusing someone of eavesdropping when they inadvertently overhear a loud person speaking in their cell phone on a crowded bus. This is not something that I'm trying to see.

The privacy screens that are so often referenced by library personnel are by no means an adequate measure to prevent these images from being seen by those in the general area of the screen. This does not mean that there are scores of 'privacy invaders' on the loose. This merely means that public acts are not private and we should not pretend that they are.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Attn: Call to Action

I'm currently looking for readers who would be willing to share their own stories of being exposed to porn in the library. Anything from general disgust, to particular incidents would be greatly appreciated.

If you do have a story or sentiment that you would like to share, please contact me at my email address listed on this blog.

Submissions will remain anonymous upon request and will only be published on the blog with explicit permission.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Next Steps

Since the inception of this blog, the idea was to get in touch with other people who are already trying to get things changed in regards to banning the open use of hard-core pornography in the Chicago Public Library. (After all, why reinvent the wheel?)

In my research, I found several people who have worked hard to make these changes. As a result, I discovered information on HB1727. At this point, I'm in the process of drafting letters to the sponsors.
It seems to be on hold or maybe even nixed at this point. We need to know why. Why was it stopped? What can we do to get this in public consciousness? What can we do to get things changed?

At any rate - check back in the next week or two for those letters and possibly more updates.
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