INSIDE EDITION Investigates: Who's Lurking In Your Library?
INSIDE EDITION found men watching hardcore pornography – not it in the privacy of their homes or some sleazy adult store - they were doing it in a public library. And library patrons were shocked.
"That is completely absurd. Nobody should be doing that in public", said one man. Another woman – who happens to be librarian said, "It offends everyone. And it's something that should not be done in public."
But believe it or not, it's perfectly legal and even permitted in many libraries across the country.
At Chicago's central library, The Harold Washington Library Center, we saw security guards patrolling the library's computer center. But that didn't seem to stop many men from watching graphic adult videos in the large computer room open to anyone.
We found one guy even using his own camera to record the hardcore action. He knew that no one was going to stop him.
But what if children are nearby? It didn't seem to matter to one guy we observed watching triple X material just a few feet away from a young child sitting on the lap of her aunt.
We approached him outside the library and asked, "Did you realize that there was a 4-year old girl just two computers away when you were watching adult videos?" He didn't respond and ran away.
Luckily, the child didn't see the adult material. After her aunt viewed our video of the man watching the hardcore porn she was shocked. "Oh my god, at the library? Why? The library is a family place. That's very disturbing," she said.
We found another guy at the Los Angeles Library's downtown branch in Chinatown watching porn - right next to two young children.
When we asked him, "Do you realize there were children right next to you while you were watching the adult videos?"
All he said was, "No...No...No...No." and walked away.
Many libraries say they allow visitors to view anything on the internet, even pornography, as long as the websites are legal. Some libraries, like Chicago, attach privacy screens to block the view of others, but we found those screens don't always work.
Online pornography is just one of the disturbing issues public libraries are grappling with. Inside Edition reviewed reports of incidents at libraries in eleven large cities for two years covering 2010-2011 and what we found may surprise you.
In Austin, Texas, there were 612 incidents of harassment and sexual harassment.
In Milwaukee, Wis. there were 446 reports of disorderly conduct.
In Indianapolis, Ind. There were 148 reports of inappropriate behavior.
Tyler Grace is one guy you probably wouldn't want to see in your library. He was accused of performing a lewd act in a library in Maine after sitting next to an unsuspecting woman.
She described what happened, "I actually heard him unzip his pants, so, of course, I looked over because it was odd to me and he actually exposed himself, as soon as I noticed I immediately jumped up."
Those charges were dismissed when Grace entered a psychiatric facility, but now police say he's done it again in Massachusetts. He was not only charged with a lewd act but also assaulting a woman. We caught up with him as he was leaving a court hearing in Massachusetts.
"Tyler, did you assault a woman in a library?," we asked. "Never. I've never assaulted anyone in my life. I don't even know what the term means," Grace insisted.
When asked if committed a lewd act in the library, he replied, "No, I did not."
Experts say you shouldn't be paranoid, but while enjoying the vast resources of your public library, you should always stay on your guard.
The Chicago Public Library Director of Marketing Ruth Lednicer gave this statement:
The Chicago Public Library provides free unfiltered access to the Internet to its patrons, as part of its mission to offer equal access to information in this digital age. In order to protect the privacy of all patrons, many of whom are filling out job applications, government forms, or other online work requiring personal information, each Adult Computer in the library has been installed with a privacy screen, which prevents patrons from seeing what the person next to them is viewing. Similarly, we do not allow photographs or videos to be taken in the computer areas without the explicit permission of the patrons, so as to protect their private information. The Chicago Public Library provided 2.8 million one-hour Internet sessions to the public last year, the majority of which were to Chicagoans doing research, emailing, filling out forms for school or financial aid, and looking and applying for jobs.
The Chicago Public Library takes every precaution to stop children from viewing undesirable material on computers. In all our locations, Children's Computers and Adult Computers are kept in separate areas and adults are not allowed on computers in the Children's areas. The Children's Computers at the Harold Washington Library Center are on the second floor, one floor away from the Adult Computers in the third floor Computer Commons. Children's Computers do not have privacy screens, and are set up so that librarians can see what children are viewing on the computer. Librarians work closely with children to make sure they are using the Internet appropriately and if children are visiting websites which are not suitable, they are redirected to appropriate sites.
The Library has not yet found any filter that will effectively block only objectionable images. Existing filters block primarily text, including words associated with legitimate research information such as health care facts, not images. Thousands of new websites and blogs are created every week, including some which contain images many would find objectionable. After many years of lobbying for them to do so, the Library was happy to see ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) approve the creation of the .xxx domain in 2011. We now look forward to enforcement of this domain for pornographic sites, as access to sites with this domain can easily be blocked.