LTA Members:: Get Questions Answered
Do You Have a Library Question Which Requires an Answer?
Ask Joe Eisner (click to learn more)
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 email@example.com. (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.