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Library hears Internet concerns
Woman claims man was looking at porn

LAWRENCEVILLE - Ruth Hardy was outraged when she witnessed a man viewing what she believes is pornography at the local library.

But what made her even more angry was the reply she received from officials.

Hardy took her fight to the Gwinnett County Public Library board Monday.

"The images I saw can cause irreparable harm to a young child," she said to the board of the September incident. "I was shocked to learn that the library staff will not intervene when someone is viewing pornographic material."

While board members did not respond fully to Hardy's complaints, which were echoed by a child advocate and a local pastor, they said the library staff has been working to gather potential solutions.

But Hardy said she has received no response to recent letters to board members, except for one reply that she said made her feel the situation wasn't being taken seriously.

"It is unfortunate the library hides under the guise of free speech for adults above the protection of children," said Claire Hertzler, regional director for the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families. "It isn't just about keeping kids away from pornography. ... But it's also about keeping people who go to the library to view pornography away from kids."

During a break between the public comment period and Monday's board meeting, system Director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam said staffers have recently added privacy screens to all computers at the library and steps are being taken to remove Internet access from computers in the children's areas in the 14 local branches.

While other strategies such as moving computers are being studied, she said the library currently uses a filter in compliance with federal law, the same program in use in 57 other library systems in Georgia.

"There's not one answer. It's attacking it from different angles," Stanbery-Kellam said, adding that the possible changes would be discussed at a January board meeting.

While Hertzler likened a library where pornography is available online to "an adult sex shop, except that children are there and taxpayers are footing the bill," another local man said he supports the system's current Internet policy.

"The truth is, I get very scared when a group tries to decide what is moral and correct for everybody," said Michael Taylor, who pointed out that research on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and even breast cancer could return images some could consider obscene.

"The library system is not a baby-sitting service and the librarians are not our children's nannies," he said. "Let's not surrender our parental responsibility to a software package."