Nanny Battles Porn Policy at the Brooklyn Public Library

By Janet Upadhye on October 10, 2012 6:57am | Updated on October 10, 2012 2:06pm

CLINTON HILL — Nanny Crystal Brister was at the library reading to the 11-month-old girl she watches when she glanced up to see an adult man a few feet away watching pornography on a public computer.

His screen was in full view of the children in the library, and the images he was watching were graphic.

"It was full-blown porn," Brister said. "How can I feel comfortable letting the baby run around and enjoy her time with other kids when men are sitting close by with erections?"

Disgusted, she went to inform the librarian who told Brister that nothing could be done.

The Clinton Hill branch librarian told Brister that, unless the man was watching illegal movies such as child pornography, the library could not stop him. Adults are protected under the First Ammendment to watch legal porn in government-funded public libraries, according to former Brooklyn public library spokeswoman Malika Granville.

But the librarian added that she had received many complaints from parents and nannies. She encouraged Brister to take matters into her own hands and start a petition.

After talking with several locals who had also seen men watching porn at the library, Brister took the librarian's advice and started a petition on Change.org.

She is hoping for at least 1,000 signatures to present to Linda Johnson, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library.

"The Clinton Hill branch provides many kids activities such as babies and books, toddler time, teen time, arts and crafts, movies, after-school homework help and comic design," Brister said.

"It is a vital place for nannies to bring their children, and we need to feel sure they won't stumble upon a sex scene, or worse."

The Brooklyn Public Library's website states that each public computer has a filter in place that keeps minors from watching pornography and adults from watching "material considered obscene or child pornography." The filters are in line with CIPA (Child Internet Protection Act) which blocks illegal material. The library also adds another layer of filtering which adults can choose to use or not.

'Obscene' refers to a legal deifinition which basically emcompasses child or illegal pornography, according to Brooklyn Public Library spokesman Jason Carey.

But the library admits that the filters are not perfect.

"Not only are adult customers able to view whatever they wish on public library computers, the library actually provides privacy screens (those dark covers for monitors that the user can see through but those beyond cannot) for customers who wish to view "questionable material," a spokesman for the Brooklyn Public Library told the "Village Voice."

Privacy screens are not currently in use at the Clinton Hill branch.

Carey said that it is the policy of the library to provide open access to information for library-users. Open access includes the right to watch legal material.

Carey added that the library is "invested in creating safe spaces for all library-users and he would be willing to listen to Brister's concerns and find a solution that works for everyone."

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