By Brett Davidsen
The library board of trustees responded Wednesday to a threat from the county to change its Internet porn policy or risk losing millions of dollars in funding. The board met Wednesday morning to take up the issue, which was prompted by an I-Team 10 investigation.
"Let me say at the outset that neither the Monroe County Library System nor any member library condones the viewing of age inappropriate materials by children," said Library System Board President George Wolf.
Last week, an I-Team 10 hidden camera investigation showed you images of people on the Web, viewing graphic sexual material at the library. The library's policy allows adults 17 and older in areas of the Central Branch to view unfiltered Internet.
"I think it's unfortunate that we have pornography in the public library. I didn't know it, it seems to be a surprise to a lot of people," said Jean Gloss of Irondequoit, who came to the public meeting.
Reverend Carley Touchstone was also there. He's the president of the Greater Rochester Association of Evangelicals.
"I was shocked to hear that there was public viewing of pornography here locally and it was taxpayer supported dollars doing it," said Touchstone.
Touchstone said he was leaving pleased by the board's action Wednesday. That action came in the way of a resolution appointing a task force to break down the issue and report back in 60 days. The panel will hire experts and look at, among other things, placement of computer terminals, consideration of rights of adults to access lawful materials, and analysis of filtering software.
"What we have to do is find those kinds of facts. Make certain that there is a basis for the decisions that we make and that's the course we've tried to follow always and the course will continue with," said board Member Bernadette Poole-Tracy.
Hanging over the board's head, a threat from County Executive Maggie Brooks, who, after seeing our investigation, wrote a letter to the library director threatening to halt 6.6.million dollars in funding if the Internet policy isn't changed.
"It's not a simple issue. It’s a complex issue and I don't know how you write a letter like that on a complicated issue without first understanding or having some awareness of what the issues are," said John Lovenheim, president of the Rochester Public Library Board of Trustees.
Brooks responded by showing off stacks of cards and emails supporting her decision.
"What was going on at the library was inappropriate and needed to be addressed immediately and that was the fastest path that I could find to getting a response from the library," Brooks said.