Librarian Brenda Biesterfeld says she’s glad her community considers her a hero for helping nab a child porn suspect, but wants her library job back
A bizarre battle has erupted over the arrest on child pornography charges of a man at a California public library, with library and county officials siding against the staffer who called police to arrest the alleged criminal.
Librarian Brenda Biesterfeld was fired from her job after disregarding her supervisor’s orders not to call police.
Now a pro-family organization and a law firm are rallying support for her.
“We’ve come alongside her, providing media training and legal representation,” said Randy Thomasson, chief of the Campaign for Children and Families, a prominent pro-family leadership group. “Our goal is to get Brenda’s job back, to institute a new library policy that has no tolerance for obscenity and child pornography, and to send a nationwide message that child predators will not be allowed to ‘do their thing’ in libraries.”
Mathew Staver, head of Liberty Counsel, said his organization has sent a demand letter to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors challenging the librarian’s dismissal.
The incident developed on Feb. 28 when Beisterfeld, a single mother, was working in the Lindsay Branch library, and she noticed Donny Lynn Chrisler, 39, viewing child porn on one of the public-use computers.
“She immediately went to her supervisor, Judi Hill, who instructed her to give him a warning and explain that on his second warning he would be banned from the library,” Liberty Counsel said. “When Biesterfeld asked if she should call the police, Hill told her not to and that the library would handle it internally.”
She also was told that “this happens more often than she would think.”
Biesterfeld was so unnerved by the situation, she talked with police the next day. Then on March 4, when Chrisler returned, Biesterfeld saw him viewing more child porn and called police.
“When police officers arrived they caught Chrisler viewing the child pornography, arrested him, and placed him in the Tulare County Jail, where he remains on $10,000 bail,” Liberty Counsel said. “Further investigation uncovered more child pornography in Chrisler’s home.”
But when police confiscated the computer from the library, Hill confronted them and said they had no business enforcing the child pornography law within the library.
“Even after the police captain explained that a federal law had been violated, making it a legal matter to be handled by police, Hill never offered to help,” Liberty Counsel said. “Instead, she demanded to know who made the report.”
Even though police investigators concealed Biesterfeld’s name, Hill claimed she knew who it was, and within 20 minutes the captain got a call from Biesterfeld saying Hill had called her and rebuked her. Two days later and without explanation Biesterfeld was fired.
The law firm’s letter demands Biesterfeld’s reinstatement and that the library change its policy to prevent the use of library property for illegal behavior and to establish a prompt reporting system.
Mayor Ed Murray submitted a similar request to the county, officials said.
“Brenda Biesterfeld had a moral and a legal responsibility to report to police a library patron whom she observed viewing child pornography,” said Staver. “It is outrageous that the Lindsay Branch library fired Ms. Biesterfeld for reporting child pornography. Child Pornography is a despicable crime against children.”
Thomasson said the local battle, however, has national implications.
“We’re also defending children nationwide,” he said. “You see, the American Library Association, which is the controlling influence over libraries nationwide, views pornography and obscenity as ‘intellectual freedom.’ Because of this, many libraries in the U.S. allow child pornographers to use their Internet system undetected and unreported. Is it any wonder why child molestation has become so common?”
According to the association’s own web page regarding intellectual freedom and censorship, it is not the work of a library to protect children from material that is “legally obscene.”
“Governmental institutions cannot be expected to usurp or interfere with parental obligations and responsibilities when it comes to deciding what a child may read or view,” the ALA says.
It also defines “intellectual freedom” as the right to see material “without restriction.” Those who object to obscenity and its availability are “censors,” who “try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate.”
“Each of us has the right to read, view, listen to, and disseminate constitutionally protected ideas, even if a censor finds those ideas offensive,” the ALA states.
“Censors might sincerely believe that certain materials are so offensive, or present ideas that are so hateful and destructive to society, that they simply must not see the light of day. Others are worried that younger or weaker people will be badly influenced by bad ideas, and will do bad things as a result,” the ALA said.
That was the point Steve Baldwin, a former California lawmaker, was making when he previously penned a column citing a report from the Family Research Council.
“A 2000 report by the Family Research Council details how its researchers sent out surveys to every librarian in America asking questions about access to pornography. Despite efforts by the ALA to stop its members from responding, 462 librarians did respond. Their replies revealed 472 instances of children assessing pornography, 962 instances of adults accessing pornography, 106 instances of adults exposing children to pornography, five attempted child molestations, 144 instances of child porn being accessed and 25 instances of library staff being harassed by those viewing pornography. Over 2,062 total porn-related incidents were reported by a mere 4.6 percent of our nation’s librarians so one can assume the number of incidents is probably twenty times higher,” he reported.
He wrote that the “bias” of the ALA is obvious.
“When parent groups have offered to place books in libraries with conservative themes or are critical of the left, the ALA’s claims of being First Amendment guardians suddenly look fraudulent. When one parent tried to donate George Grant’s book, ‘Killer Angel,’ a critical biography of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, the library sent a letter stating that ‘the author’s political and social agenda…is not appropriate.’ Huh? A biographical book with zero profanity is banned but books that feature the ‘F’ word a hundred times are sought after with zeal. Go figure,” Baldwin wrote.
Thomasson called on librarians across the country to report child pornography to law enforcement whenever it happens.
“The liberals who run the library system in America must stop violating the federal law because they regard child pornography as ‘free speech,'” he said. “All pornography is immoral, but possession of child pornography is a federal crime. No librarian should fear reporting child pornography to the police, but libraries that fail to report these crimes should be very afraid. Brenda Biesterfeld will get her job back, and more.”
Biesterfeld said she felt intimidated by Hill after the police investigation was launched. “She kind of threatened me,” Biesterfeld said. “She said I worked for the county, and when the county tells you to do something, you do what the county tells you. She said I had no loyalty to the county. I told her I was a mother and a citizen also, and not just a county employee.”
The dismissal letter from Tulare County Librarian Brian Lewis said probationary employees can be fired if they don’t perform at a level “necessary for fully satisfactory performance.”
But Thomasson reported a Lindsay city councilwoman said she’d been told just a few weeks earlier Biesterfeld was doing a great job.
The city of Lindsay also has complained to the county about Hill’s “abrupt, demanding and demeaning” telephone call to police telling them to halt their pornography investigation.