Adamson v. Minneapolis Public Library is a legal complaint by a dozen librarians against their library’s management after years of harassment and threats by porn viewing patrons, including children and involving illegal material, allowed and encouraged by management in the name of “privacy,†the “First Amendment,†and in opposition to “censorship.â€Â  The case ultimately settled for the library’s insurance cap of $435,000. 

The well-respected David Burt of has brought this complaint to light in his Adamson blog where he has also provided the related sexual harassment complaint filed with the EEOC.  On 23 May 2001, the EEOC determined that “the Respondent did subject the Charging Party to sexually hostile work environment.  This is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.â€

Here is a small sample of quotes from the complaint:

  1. Bullet¶26:  “ Specifically, plaintiffs and all staff were informed that it was not a breach of MPL rules for any patron, including children, to view any type of sexual image on any MPL computer screen.â€

  2. Bullet¶31:  “ At times in various departments, every computer screen would be simultaneously accessing obscene or pornographic images.â€

  3. Bullet¶33:  “ In addition to the viewing of obscene and pornographic material, and the violent and threatening behavior, Plaintiffs were also exposed to overt sexual conduct in MPL.â€

  4. Bullet¶34:  “ Plaintiffs observed substances appearing to be semen were found on several occasions at terminals or keyboards.â€

  5. Bullet¶36:  “ Small children, young boys and girls would be seated right next to patrons displaying graphic and obscene images.â€

  6. Bullet¶41:  “ On several occasions, school class would come in for a field trip and a group of boys would be observed viewing pornographic sites on the MPL terminals. Because of the policy of MPL, Plaintiffs were unable to take any steps to prevent this behavior by young children.â€

  7. Bullet¶44:  “ Plaintiff Nelson was followed through downtown by a regular who also followed her home on her bus. Shortly thereafter this same individual was arrested for raping a girl at knife-point that he had allegedly abducted from a bus stop on the same bus line. Ms. Nelson no longer feels safe taking the bus to work and her parents have suggested repeatedly that she should quit her job.â€

  8. Bullet¶50:  “ Many Plaintiffs and other staff members began to see themselves as ‘sitting ducks.’ MPL through its policy had caused a subculture of hard-core pornography users to descend on the library.â€

  9. Bullet¶53:  “ Lawson's reply emphatically rejected any effort to remedy the situation. She specifically rejected the idea of public decency playing any role in Library policy, declaring ‘The public library's foundation rests on support of the First Amendment, the free flow of information not on upholding standards of public decency...’ She further flatly refused to adopt a policy that would comply with Minnesota law regarding criminally obscene material. She stated ‘I cannot agree, however, that a written policy outlawing obscene material in the library or the uses of screening software for the Internet is appropriate for the Library.’ Lawson in formulating her policy position, choose to ignore the fact that the Minnesota legislature had already declared ‘obscene’ material to be illegal.â€

  10. Bullet¶56a:  “ Plaintiff Mary Kay Harris notified Mary Lawson via memo on the obscene and offensive material ..., specifically describing an image she encountered on a public terminal showing a young boy performing oral sex on a grown man. Lawson responded by e-mail ... reiterating the library's policy to ‘continue to support unfettered access to information’ and to protect the ‘right of privacy...’â€

  11. Bullet¶56b:  “ Lawson issued a memo to Library supervises [sic] acknowledging the concerns about sexual harassment occurring as a result of patron viewing of obscene materials but refusing to change the policy for fear of being charged with ‘censorship.’â€

  12. Bullet¶56l:  “ Lawson followed up her response to this patron ... with an e-mail from her and another from her subordinate, Kristi Gibson, seeking to limit staff from contacting the media about this issue and to clearly intimidate any staff members who might be seeking to use publicity to challenge her policy.â€

  13. Bullet¶56m:  “ 47 members of the MPL staff wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Star-Tribune objecting to Defendants' policy of unfettered access and the complete disregard of the impact on staff and patrons of that policy. [T]he Board of Trustees responded in the newspaper with a statement reiterating and defending Defendants' policy of unfettered access.â€

  14. Bullet¶56n:  “ Plaintiffs caused a packet of pornographic and obscene printouts which had been found at MPL printers to be sent to the Board of Directors of MPL, in hopes that the Board would take action once they saw the material which Plaintiffs had been forced to view for over three years. Upon information and belief, despite the fact that the materials were placed in packets and individually addressed to Board Members, those packets were intercepted by the Administration of MPL and not delivered to the Board until a much later date.â€

  15. Bullet¶59:  “ MPL department heads and supervisors clearly understood Lawson considered herself a ‘champion’ of the First Amendment and that there was no benefit or likelihood of success in trying to persuade her that her policy was having an adverse impact on MPL.â€

  16. Bullet¶62:  “ A principal concern is also that Defendants do not take seriously the harm done to plaintiffs and to MPL patrons by the policy of Defendants. At a recent Board of Directors meeting, Board Member Rod Kruger stated that he thought staff members were being "too emotional" about this issue and stated that he did not believe a significant problem existed and that most patrons were simply doing research on ‘breast cancer’ or some other topic when they accidently came upon the pornographic web-sites. He stated that he wanted to protect the privacy of the patrons. At that same meeting Board Member Charlotte Anderson became extremely upset when presented with a petition signed by 40 staff members against the purchase of recessed terminals and stated she was ‘sick of petitions, sick of letters from the staff, sick of incident reports too.’ She dismissed the concerns for safety by staff members stating ‘that in all her years of coming down to the library she has not been attacked once.’ She then stated ‘What is so wrong about having 5 or 10 guys touching themselves once in a while?’â€

  17. Bullet¶63:  “ In addition, in May, at a press conference held at MPL by DFL U.S. Senate candidate David Lillehaug, Jan Feye-Stukas, Assistant Director of MPL and Alex Wakal, head of security at MPL, were observed by staff deriding Plaintiffs' claims, making mocking gestures about staff members trying to see pornography on MPL terminals and making comments such as ‘they should just look away.’ Feye-Stukas acted out with exaggerated gestures a parody of staff members leering over patrons' shoulders while Wakal shook his head in disgust. The clear implication was that staff was being hysterical and voyeuristic in their reaction to the obscene and offensive materials in the library.â€

  18. Bullet¶66: “ More cruelly, the reality of children being sexually victimized by adults became a depressing and recurrent image of every day life.â€

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Adamson v. Minneapolis Public Library