echoes sentinel

library computer filters considered 'heavy-handed'

24 june 2004

long hill twp. - by patricia llerena - © recorder newspapers 2004

a library board of trustees subcommittee report states "the subcommittee feels that filtering all internet access is too heavy handed an approach."  [p2s note:  this from ala-guided librarians, so no one should use this library as an example.]

the report was presented and briefly discussed at a wednesday, june 16 board meeting.  the report is available on the library's web site and a copy can also be found at the library.  the findings of the report will be discussed at meetings scheduled during july and september.

the subcommittee suggested installing filters in the computers in the children's department, library board member phoebe sharp said.

[one plan2succeed member], who ran in the republican primary for township committee earlier this month, has repeatedly requested the board to install filters on computers to prevent children from viewing lewd material.

it was also recommended that adults wishing to access the internet from computers in the children's department would only be allowed to do so when accompanied by a child.

another suggestion was requiring parents of children under 18 to sign waivers at the library.  a permission card authorizing use of the internet would have to be displayed while the child used a computer.  this would help protect teen-agers who spend more time in the adult section than the children's section of the library.

under the section addressing responsibility, the report asserted that "parents bear the primary responsibility for their children's safety."  however, there are concerns from the public over "protecting children from their own actions as well as protecting them from the actions of others," as stated in the report.

the library is considered a safe environment and "attempts to portray [it] as being a recreation area for perverts and predators are examples of fear mongering in the extreme," the report states.

"the legal aspects concerning filtering provide no clear-cut path to a decision," the report concluded.  according to the subcommittee findings, "there is no evidence that [the library] is required by any law to implement filtering."  it made reference to a supreme court decision that allows filtering as long as it was not imposed on adults who found it hindering.

if the board were to decide to install software restricting internet access, it would have to decide if "it is only interested in filtering sexual topics or wants to go further and block access to sites dealing with hatred, criminal activity, etc.," according to the report.

prior to purchasing filtering software, the board would need to ensure that it is approved by the morris automated information network (m.a.i.n.), since the network provides technical support of the library's computers.

currently, in morris county only one library is fully filtered and three are partially filtered, according to sharp.  there are a total of 36 libraries in the county.

this is "clearly not something other libraries are pursuing," said library board president don kuhn [908-647-5840].

library director arline most [908-647-2088] said the evaluation will not be rushed.  "we're looking to the needs of the entire community," most said.  "it's not a simple issue."

the library owns 14 computers and makes 11 of them available for public use.  only six of the public computers are currently connected to the internet, said most.

as part of the m.a.i.n. membership, the library pays an annual fee of $3,000 per computer, for ten computers to access the internet, the patron database and all other databases, most said.

the subcommittee was setup a few months ago to explore the issue, according to most.

the three members on the subcommittee are chairman brian boylan [908-647-6884], jerry klawitter [908-647-6765] and phoebe sharp [908-647-3228].

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