Welcome to The Safe Library: Dr. Albrecht's Library 2.0 Service, Safety, and Security Resources

Our Library 2.0 "Safe Library" training programs for library staffers and leaders cover service, security, safety, supervision, and even a little stress management. Our goal is to help to keep all library employees physically and psychologically safe, making it easier for them to serve all patrons in their facilities.

Dr. Albrecht's podcast recordings and feed are to the right, and following immediately below that is a full list of his blog posts. A full list of paid webinars is to the left.

UPCOMING EVENTS

June 13, 2024

BLOG POSTS

Dr. Albrecht's blog posts are below. One of the features of his blog is "ASK DR. STEVE," where readers submit questions and he answers them. To submit a question for Dr. Steve, please email askdrsteve@library20.com.

[Patrons watching pornography in the library can range from an irritating behavioral problem to an actual federal crime. So what do we do to enforce our Internet and Wi-Fi policies? Dr. Albrecht has written this article for the September 2023 issue of Computers in Libraries magazine. Our thanks to Executive Editor Dick Kaser, for allowing us to publish it here. The oroginal is at https://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/sep23/Albrecht--What-You-Need-to-Learn-About-Porn-and-Patron-Safety.shtml.]

One of the more vexing issues in public libraries is the viewing of pornographic photos and videos by patrons. Either these images are searched and viewed on the library’s network using a library-provided desktop, laptop, or tablet; the patron looks at them on their own laptop, tablet, or phone (using the library’s Wi-Fi connection); or the patron brings their own imagery on their own device and doesn’t require internet access. It’s even possible that the patron brings pornographic magazines into the library.

Several issues arise when it comes to this behavior. Is it a “reasonable use/free speech application” by the patron—meaning viewing pornography is not addressed or cannot be enforced by the library’s internet usage policy or code of conduct? Does it not bother other patrons or staffers, meaning its business impact on the library (always a good measure to use when evaluating patron behaviors) is minimal? Or does it irritate patrons or other library employees? Might it lead to a physical confrontation with a parent who has brought their kids to the library on a Saturday and doesn’t want them walking by and seeing what is on this person’s screen?

From an internet usage perspective, does the patron’s ability to look at internet porn mean that they have defeated the filtering software installed by the library’s IT department or vendor—and therefore violated policy? (The sophistication of some of the filtering programs seems to range from quite vigilant to easy to defeat.)

Why It Happens

Why do people watch porn in the library? The short answer is because they can, especially if that content is not filtered. The longer answers are more complex. It’s likely that they enjoy the thrill of doing something prurient, or they like the attention, even if it’s negative, from staffers or other patrons. It’s even more probable that they enjoy being provocative, want to annoy others, and like pushing decency boundaries, especially in a public place.

It’s possible that they are homeless, don’t have internet access, and/or can’t watch it at their home or workplace. Maybe they are not allowed to, or they fear the consequences of being discovered. It could be that they don’t have a cellphone, tablet, or laptop—and the library does. They could have an addiction to pornography, a specific sexual paraphilia, or a mental illness connected to compulsivity. These typically male patrons tend to be both chronologically and sexually immature.

The rationalizations and excuses made to staffers, when confronted, include:

“I’m not bothering anyone. Leave me alone!”

“It’s my First Amendment right to look at what I want.”

“It was an accident.”

“I can’t help it. I have an addiction.”

“It’s no big deal. People are too uptight.”

“I’m doing research. I was just curious.”

“I’ll turn the screen away.”

“Tell people not to look at my screen.”

Defining Child Pornography

Probably the most concerning issue is legal and moral: How do we respond, as library professionals, if we suspect the patron is viewing (and is therefore in possession of) what appears to be video or photo images of child pornography? We already know pornography is legal and child pornography is not. Unfortunately, the age difference in the imagery is not always clear.

The U.S. Department of Justice website states, “Child pornography is a form of child sexual exploitation. Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (persons less than 18 years old). Images of child pornography are also referred to as child sexual abuse images. Federal law prohibits the production, distribution, importation, reception, or possession of any image of child pornography. A violation of federal child pornography laws is a serious crime, and convicted offenders face fines [and] severe statutory penalties …” (rb.gy/60x38). All states have child porn prosecution laws equivalent to the federal statute. The usual federal response is to seek to prosecute suspects with 500-plus images—an “egregious offender”—in which the punishment is 10 years in prison. Other states may have lower possession numbers that will result in a prosecution.

If we divide internet pornography into two zones—sites that are accessible by anyone (with or without using a search engine) and those that are hidden—it’s less likely that the porn site industry leaders (who get millions of daily visitors) will have obvious child pornography images. This is not because they are excessively noble or vigilant about every photo or video they upload, but because the consequences of child pornography possession and distribution to their thriving, multimillion dollar companies would be severe: prosecution, mainstream and social media coverage, public shaming, being sued by victims or victim advocacy groups, and being forced out of business. These adults-only sites want to keep child pornography away so they can continue to flourish economically. Instead, the illegal content typically dwells at the hidden level. Those who know how to navigate to these sites may want to use library computers to do so.

Statistics on the internet as to the prevalence of pornography sites by overall percentage vary wildly, but the best estimate seems to be that about 4% of all internet sites (about 8 million) are X-rated in content. There may be child pornography imagery on these sites, of course, but it appears to have migrated from the deep web to the dark web. According to the data security firm CrowdStrike, “Simply put, the deep web is any part of the net that is not indexed by search engines. This includes websites that gate their content behind paywalls, password-protected websites, and even the contents of your email. The dark web, on the other hand, uses encryption software to provide even greater security” (rb.gy/nhib3).

While national governments around the world do their best to discover encrypted images, the use of video and image steganography software makes this both difficult and an ongoing battle. Steganography is the process of concealing information within another message or physical object to avoid detection, like how the Greeks used invisible ink to send coded messages more than 2 millennia ago. To transmit child pornography, perpetrators send seemingly innocent photos or videos, which are then downloaded, decoded, and opened via an electronic key that only the sender and receiver have.

Approaches to Internet Policies and Enforcement

For most municipal libraries, there are five common approaches for how they allow patrons to access the internet, either through the library’s devices or its Wi-Fi, or if the patrons use their own devices:

  1. They filter the internet and enforce their policies on screen content.
  2. They filter and don’t enforce their policies on screen content, allowing their software (and the bypassing skills of the patrons) to decide what is available.
  3. They don’t filter content and enforce their policies on screen content using staff vigilance.
  4. They don’t filter and don’t enforce their policies.
  5. They only filter PCs in the children’s section, not the rest of the library

Internet use policies might naturally differ at law libraries, medical or research libraries, or even college and university libraries, but there is no reason to assume that the problem does not exist there. It’s understandable that most library staffers would rather not have a discussion with patrons who are both out of compliance and viewing pornography. It takes courage to confront behavior that is against policy or out of compliance with the code of conduct in general and viewing pornography specifically.

Best Practices for Prevention and Safe Staff Interventions

Here are some tips for dealing with the situation:

✓ Set early behavioral boundaries based on both your internet use policies and code of conduct.

✓ If possible, warn teenagers in the library that sharing pornographic imagery through their texts, phones, tablets, or laptops can be a crime for both the sender and recipient. (Not an easy conversation to have, but it may be a necessary one to save them a lot of legal grief.)

✓ Use a simple deterrent phrase: “You can’t do that if you want to stay here.” Speak in polite but assertive, low tones. Give one warning, and then enforce your policies, including banning chronic violators of the time limit per your policies. (No consequences mean continuation and escalation.)

✓ Update your internet use policies and code of conduct, as necessary, to match the requirements of new federal or state laws. Train and remind staffers to enforce the policies, getting help to change the ratio of confrontation, if needed.

✓ If you filter the internet in your library (including the children’s room), discuss the effectiveness of your current filtering software with your IT department or vendors.

✓ What about changing the room design in which the internet computers are used? Flip some of the internet-access PC screens around to face the wall, instead of facing them out into the open stacks. Install privacy screens or desk dividers.

✓ For cases of either sexual behavior in the library or suspected child pornography, call your local police station. The responding officers or deputies may not know much about state or federal child pornography laws, but they will be familiar with crimes related to sexual behaviors in public places (and may know the patron by criminal history).

✓ It may be necessary for a local, state, or federal law enforcement officer to impound a library-owned computer, tablet, or laptop as evidence. To assist the continuity of the investigation, take all desktop PCs off Wi-Fi, and put any portable devices that have had access to the internet into airplane mode before giving them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for a forensic review. This helps the evidence technicians do their job more effectively.

The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program

For more advice on these concerns, contact your regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program center for advice, staff training, and, if necessary, an investigative response after making a police report for a patron suspected of possessing or viewing child pornography.

There are 61 task force programs in the U.S., staffed by more than 5,400 federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals. All 50 states have at least one ICAC Task Force Program agency; some states (such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York) have several offices. Their mission is to investigate child pornography and child abuse imagery and locate, arrest, and prosecute the creators and possessors, both in the U.S. and around the world. They provide training, information, and resources to the public and law enforcement. You can get more information at icactaskforce.org.

The Federal Communications Commission website’s description of the Children’s Internet Protection Act and its requirements.

Libraries receiving discounts under the E-Rate program have been required since 2000 to comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations that impose certain requirements on schools or public libraries that receive the E-Rate discount on internet services. These rules were updated in 2011. Among the requirements is the establishment of an internet safety policy that includes technological measures such as blocking and filtering software on devices that are accessible by children to protect them from images that are obscene, constitute child pornography, or are harmful to minors. Other conditions apply, and full details are available at rb.gy/c8v5m.

Votes: 0
E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of Library 2.0 to add comments!

Join Library 2.0

Dr. Steve Albrecht

Since 2000, Dr. Steve Albrecht has trained thousands of library employees in 28+ states, live and online, in service, safety, and security. His programs are fast, entertaining, and provide tools that can be put to use immediately in the library workspace with all types of patrons.

In 2015, the ALA published his book, Library Security: Better Communication, Safer Facilities. His new book, The Safe Library: Keeping Users, Staff, and Collections Secure, was just published by Rowman & Littlefield.

Steve holds a doctoral degree in Business Administration (D.B.A.), an M.A. in Security Management, a B.A. in English, and a B.S. in Psychology. He is board-certified in HR, security management, employee coaching, and threat assessment.

He has written 25 books on business, security, and leadership topics. He lives in Springfield, Missouri, with six dogs and two cats.

More on The Safe Library at thesafelibrary.com. Follow on X (Twitter) at @thesafelibrary and on YouTube @thesafelibrary. Dr. Albrecht's professional website is drstevealbrecht.com.

Safe Library Short Tips (+ Dog)

Go to all videos.

Buy the Book

"20 SAFE LIBRARY GUIDELINES" HANDOUT DOWNLOAD

PAST WEBINARS - RECORDINGS AVAILABLE

CLICK HERE

 

Praise for Dr. Albrecht

"Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for presenting at our staff development day. Our staff has expressed their appreciation for the information and tools you provided. We know the lessons learned will be useful in our day-to-day work. It was a pleasure to have you with us -- even if it was only virtually." - Athens, GA Library

"I wanted to thank you for the session. My husband was listening from the other room and said, 'Wow, that was great!' This was the best library workshop I've been to, and I've been to a lot! The staff was saying the same in emails." - Emily from MI

"Your suggestions of what to say to challenging patrons will really help me once we allow patrons back into the library. Thanks!" - Lori from IL

"Not only have I learned incredibly valuable skills to use in my career as a public librarian, those lessons will have a ripple effect as I teach a course on Social Crisis Management... I always give Dr. Albrecht the credit in the portions of my lecture and presentation.  And have first hand experiences using these lessons to support his approach. Thanks again for lending your expertise to ensure that as librarians we can remain safe, keep our customers safe and still deliver on our mission and the meaningful work we do each day." - Jen 

"You helped to keep my brain from turning into mush during this long time off. Thank you!" - C. from MO

"I was able to view Library Safety and Security and Interacting with the Homeless. I learned so much and appreciate the education you offered.  I became aware of changes, large and small that I can make in my life to enhance how I interact with all people. I do hope our library offers your classes in the future because I did not view all the webinars that I wanted to and I am sure my coworkers feel the same. Thank you again." - Vicki from VA

"I wanted to send you a note of thanks for your webinars... I watched 5 of them and found them to be incredibly informative. Currently I am working with my library's director to put together a situation response manual for safety and security matters that apply to our own library... What you have shared has been very useful to help set up some guidelines and decide a good direction for training within our organization. Thank you so much for sharing your insights." - Jennifer from IN

"Thank you for the great content. I appreciate it." - Carmen from MT

"[I] found [your webinars] extremely helpful and informative. Thanks again and stay safe!" - Christine from PA

"I remember when you came to our Annual Employee Training Session and presented a terrific class. I was able to view all of your webinars during this time and I learned so much. Your generosity of spirit during this pandemic is truly appreciated and your kindness will be remembered. Thanks again and Cheers." - Bernadette from CA

"We have watched a couple of [your webinars] in the past and they always provide a great approach to issues that are becoming more and more common in public libraries." - Rod from TX

"Your webinars were educational and inspiring." - Karen from GA

"I have recently watched all your webinars... (this begins to sound like a groupie saying, "I have all your records!") and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from them. They were probably the best work at home professional development material I encountered in the two months my library has been closed. I've worked in public libraries since 1988 and everything you said makes sense in my experience. I look forward to putting what I learned from your webinars to use when we eventually reopen to the people the library exists for. Many thanks!" - Barbara from BC Canada

"I've learned a lot from your diverse offerings as I knew that I would. I listened to 4 of your webinars at this run. I also attended your talk last year at one of our branch libraries. I hope that your presentations remain in my mind and that your practical, philosophical and respectful methods of engagement can be brought forth in times of need." - Deborah from CA

"We don't always take the time to do online courses or participate in webinars because of time and money restraints. We have been lucky to have the time now to take advantage of these opportunities. Your webinars really pack a lot of info in the time allotted. Your observations and surveys conducted with staff across the country made this applicable and the reality. Many of the situations described sound like our day to day interactions with patrons. Again thank you so much for these valuable webinars. I hope we will be open soon and able to put your tips into practice." - Kathy from MD

"I’ve really enjoyed all of your webinars, especially the ones about security and challenging patrons, and I’ve gained some useful knowledge that I can utilize at my library. I hope you have a wonderful day! Thanks again!" - Deborah from OH

"You're the best of the best." - Nick from CA

"I have found your webinars especially helpful during this time of stay-at-home orders and the inability to report to work for my daily schedule. (My branch is closed indefinitely.) I have especially found "Interacting with the Homeless" and "Stress Management for Library Staff" as the most help to date. I have been doing daily meditation as a stress reliever and taking time to find happiness despite all that is taking place in this world.... having this opportunity to listen to your thought-processes is very invigorating and life-changing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart." - Danielle from MD

"[Y]ou've expanded our minds and helped us greatly with your generosity. Thank you for all that you do, I appreciate it immensely." - Valerie from TX

"Thank you very much for your work and very good webinar." - Donna from IN

"I appreciate your vast knowledge on patrons and safety situations." - Mary from IL

"I've long wanted to explore your work, and have enjoyed and learned from 4 of your webinars so far, with plans to view them all. They are excellent! I am charged with leading our staff around issues of safety and security in our rural system, and you are a clear and dynamic voice in our field. I really appreciate your experience, knowledge, and presentation style, down to talking fast to get the most information into the time of the presentation! Hopefully, I'll be able to obtain the new edition of your book soon, as I hope to keep these themes as relevant currents for the duration of my career." - Kimberlee from CA

Additionally:

"Thank you for your wonderful `Safety and Security in the Library' presentation. I so appreciate that you were able to join us virtually this year and share your knowledge on these topics with our library staff. I look forward to exploring some of the resources you shared with us."

"Thanks so much for recording the presentation. It was fantastic!"

"Thank you, Dr Steve, for your presentation today. It was very helpful and insightful. Your subtle humor also lightened the mood."

"I wanted to reach out and thank you for all the information that you gave in your webinar on conducting a library facility security assessment."

WEBINARS

PODCASTS

BLOG POSTS

DEALING WITH CHALLENGING PATRONS - UNLIMITED STAFF TRAINING VIDEO

Watch Dr. Steve Albrecht on video and onstage, as he presents his safety and security workshop, "Dealing With Challenging Patrons" to a live library audience. 45 minutes for unlimited staff showings at a one-time $495 fee or included in any all-access pass program.

PURCHASE HERE