echoes sentinel

more residents want library computer filters

29 january 2004

long hill twp. - by jason goemaat, staff writer - © recorder newspapers 2004

during the past four months, plan2succeed's founder has said he isn't alone in his desire to have anti-pornography filters installed on township library computers.

at the wednesday, dec. 21 library board of trustees meeting, five other residents came to the meeting to show their support for computer filters.

"there are a lot of people who are in favor of filters," said steve delia.  "i'm still baffled why were not moving towards that."

delia was at the december board meeting to state his support for filters.  he cited the federal children's internet protection act, which is intended to prevent children from viewing pornography on library computers by installing internet filter software.  the supreme court upheld the act as constitutionally valid last june.

he catalogued the responses he heard at that meeting into nine individual points, which he presented to the board in a handout.

the sheet paraphrased board responses, such as filters would disrupt the free flow of information libraries are based upon; filters can block people intending to do "good" research; and it is the parents responsibility to supervise their children's internet use, according to the handout.

"i'm really shocked we (the library board of trustees) have to figure out should we do it or shouldn't we," said delia.  "that's like saying, do we support pornography for children or are we against it."

delia said a better understanding is needed on how to properly administer a filter system.  however, he said it should still be done.

two other residents, who shared similar views on filtering, joined delia.

"i don't see why there's not more of a sense of urgency to protect children from pornography and other harmful subject matter," said john mozer.

mozer pointed out that the grade k-8 township public schools and saint vincent de paul parochial school on bebout avenue in stirling all have filters on their school computers.

mozer said many of those school-age children come to the library after school and thought that was a "compelling" reason to install the filters.

"would my kids be safer in the bronx (borough of new york city)?" asked jean middleton.

because libraries in the bronx receive federal funds, they are required to install filters on the computers.  long hill isn't required to install filters because the library doesn't receive federal funds.

she asked if the board could examine what type of "issues" have occurred in libraries that do have computer filters.

board president donald kuhn then outlined the board's plan to further examine the filtering issues in the coming months.

examining the issue

"we're asking to let us have the time to look at the issue, look at different points of view with respect to filtering," kuhn told the audience.  "then we can come to a decision (of) what the (filtering) policy should be," he said.

kuhn said the board is taking a two-part approach to the filter issue and will eventually develop a policy for the library.

board treasurer brian boylan said he'd sent "test surveys" to madison and rockaway township branches, asking if they are filtering and what, if any, types of issues had occurred because of filtering.

boylan said he plans to send the survey to all 35 other branches in the morris county library system.  he said the board started with those two branches to make sure the branches they send the surveys to understand the information the board is asking for.

after the board gets an idea of how effective computer filters were in other libraries, a committee consisting of three board members will be set up.  the committee will concentrate on five different aspects of filtering.  1.) "to look at the basic philosophy," of what filters do; 2.) look at what technology might be "appropriate" for the township library; 3.) look at the "administrative issues" of using filters; 4.) look at what staff training is involved in using the filters; 5.) look at what kind of community relations work needs to be done once the library adopts a policy on filters.

boylan and fellow board members jerry klawitter and phoebe sharpe will serve on the committee.

delia asked if the committee would include somebody outside of the board, and volunteered himself to serve if the board was looking for such a person.

kuhn said he believed it was "a board issue."

he said the responsibility for looking at the issue was "rightly placed" with the board.  he added the filtering committee would "appropriately" seek public input through the surveys.

kuhn said the committee will probably work on the computer filter issue in the next few months.

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