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As part of LTA’s expansion of service to aid and assist library trustees and directors, LTA offers members an opportunity to confer with Joe Eisner, free of charge.

Joe can be contacted toll-free at 1 (866) 720-8969 or by email at ltafaqjoe@librarytrustees.org. (Question are handled with discretion.)

For more information about Joe Eisner’s experience and background, please click on the “Ask Joe Eisner” tab under “Resources and Links” on LTA’s website.

The following should not be construed as legal advice, for which the services of counsel should be obtained:

Question . . .  Is the library responsible if on a public access computer a patron displays a picture which is deemed “offensive  sexual material” by others who view it?

The following should not be construed as legal advice, for which the service of counsel should be sought.

Answer . . .  No.  Display of such material is a Penal Law offense:

Public display of offensive sexual material.

A  person  is  guilty  of  public display of offensive sexual material when, with knowledge of  its  character  and  content,  he  displays  or permits  to  be  displayed  in  or  on  any window, showcase, newsstand, display rack, wall, door,  billboard,  display  board,  viewing  screen, moving picture screen, marquee or similar place, in such manner that the display  is  easily  visible from or in any:  public street, sidewalk or thoroughfare;  transportation  facility;  or  any  place  accessible  to members  of  the  public  without  fee  or  other  limit or condition of admission such as a  minimum  age  requirement  and  including  but  not limited  to  schools,  places  of  amusement,  parks and playgrounds but excluding  rooms  or  apartments  designed  for  actual  residence;  any pictorial,  three-dimensional or other visual representation of a person or a portion of the human body that predominantly  appeals  to  prurient interest in sex, and that:

(a)   depicts  nudity,  or  actual  or  simulated  sexual  conduct  or sado-masochistic abuse; or

(b) depicts or appears to depict nudity, or actual or simulated sexual  conduct or sado-masochistic abuse, with the area of the male  or  female subject’s  unclothed  or  apparently  unclothed  genitals, pubic area or   buttocks, or of the female subject’s unclothed or  apparently  unclothed   breast,  obscured by a covering or mark placed or printed on or in front   of the material displayed, or obscured or altered in any other manner.  Public display of offensive sexual material is a Class A misdemeanor (Penal Law s245.11).

If a person displays offensive sexual material in a library on a public access computer, the library is not responsible. Monitoring what patrons do or display on a public terminal is a form of censorship. Some libraries display a sign stating that display of such material is a violation of Penal Law s245.11,  which as indicated above, is a Class A misdemeanor for which prosecution can result.

However, a library cannot prosecute violators. If a patron has observed such an incident, the library staff can offer the patron the use of the library’s phone to call the police to respond.  If the violator is still present and still actively displaying such material when the officer responds,  if the person who reported the episode is willing to lodge a complaint, it will be up to the officer to decide how to proceed.

Please note: If you have any additional questions about this topic, please contact Joe Eisner at the e-mail/phone above.