Move to Block Adult Sites from L.A. County Libraries

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich wants pornography completely banned from library computers, and has said moves by a top librarian to restrict access to adults do not go far enough.

After the Board of Supervisors asked County Librarian Margaret Donnellan Todd to study Internet pornography in the county’s libraries in August, Todd returned with a five-step process she said would prevent children from accessing adult sites in the libraries. Todd’s recommendations, however, met with Antonovich’s disapproval when she said libraries under her jurisdiction would not entirely restrict access to adult sites on library computers.

“The library makes no attempt to determine which sites meet the legal test of obscenity,” Todd said in her report.

In her report, Todd noted that federal law places the responsibility on parents to decide whether children receive filtered access to the Internet while at the library. Adults, she said, are free to choose which sites they visit.

“Library policy requires [only] that law enforcement be called if an adult is viewing what appears to be child pornography,” she said.

Todd’s recommendations included permanently affixing privacy screens on all computers, setting aside child-only terminals with Internet filters, separating child-only computers from general access computers intended for regular adult use, signs informing people which computers were filtered and a requirement that any adult must receive permission from library staff before they may use a computer set aside for children.

Antonovich was not impressed.

“We will have a motion on the agenda Tuesday asking the librarian to come up with a way to eliminate pornography [entirely],” said Tony Bell, spokesman for the supervisor.

Antonovich was prompted to act on the issue of pornography in libraries after a Canyon Country woman complained that her 4-year-old daughter witnessed a man access several adult websites in plain view of other library patrons. The computer in question did not have the privacy screens Todd recommends in her proposal.

“We appreciate the work she’s done,” Bell said of Todd’s request. “[But] it does not behoove the taxpayer or library staff to go to such an extent to preserve the computers for porn users in a public place.”

Todd currently leads a public library system of 84 community libraries in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and in 51 of the county's 88 cities. The libraries under her jurisdiction serve 3.3 million residents.