echoes sentinel

plan2succeed asks residents to not support library

12 feb 2004


after reading last week's article echoes-sentinel article, "more residents want computer filters," i finally see in writing what i have been seeing and hearing myself for a long time now.

there is a complete disregard of the public by the (long hill township) library board of trustees in the face of repeated direct requests for public involvement in internet filtering decisions.

the adherence of the board to american library association (ala) ideology holding pornography should be freely available to all and law enforcement should not step foot in a library is staggering.

like other libraries that have been awarded by the playboy foundation for successfully keeping internet filters out of public libraries, our own board of trustees should be similarly awarded.

here is how i arrive at these statements.  the article says the board will "probably" be considering the issue over the course of the "next few months."  it has already been about two and a half years since i first raised this issue in "long hill library wrong to oppose internet filtering" in the july 12, 2001 edition of the echoes-sentinel.  that article essentially warns that the library had become a magnet for criminals and that "i was told by a librarian that they have been instructed not to call the police for any reason arising from illegal use of the internet."

the only visible result of publication of that article was xeroxed copies of a law taped up near some computers.

the recent article also says the board will "appropriately" obtain citizen input through "surveys" sent to other morris county libraries, most of which are likely under similar ala control.  library management responses to another library's surveys cannot be considered citizen input.  further, those other libraries have absolutely nothing to do with the citizens of our township.

what is most glaring is the board's open refusal upon specific request to allow citizens to have input into filtering decisions.  as reported in the recent article, when asked by a citizen if he could volunteer for the board's proposed committee to examine filtering, the board flatly refused.  it was "a board issue" that was "rightly placed" with the board.  this spitting in the face of the citizens is what really deserves the hugh m. hefner first amendment award from the playboy foundation.

further, almost five months ago, i asked the board to work with me on the wording of a citizen survey acceptable to the board.  they demurred.  they said the issues are far too complicated for the average citizen to understand.  this is curious since the issues they mentioned had already been asked and answered by the united states supreme court.  and now they will poll other libraries instead of the citizens who pay for the library.

it is a good idea to see what other libraries are doing to learn from their experiences, but not while ignoring the citizens of this township.

what exactly is a "trustee"?  a board of trustees is a statutory body that determines and manages all library functions broadly defined by the statute.  the board is made up of individual trustees.  a trustee is a person to whom property is legally committed to be administered for the benefit of the beneficiaries.  the property is our public library and associated tax money and the beneficiaries are the citizens of our township.

but is the board of trustees administering our library and our tax money for the benefit of the citizens?  is the board's not accepting the input of the citizens a violation of its public trust?  is it acting solely for the benefit of the ala with regard to this issue of constitutionally valid internet filters?

more directly, is it the board's statutorily defined function to ensure people of all ages have access to pornography?  i don't need to answer that because the board answers that one for us.  the answer is yes.  according to the board's internet policy, the board expressly follows the ala's dictates to stop using "age" as a reason to keep children from seeing pornography.  worse, our board will not stop pornography even though unfiltered internet computers allow "material beyond the confines of the library's collection, mission, selection criteria and collection development policies."

there it is.  they are admitting internet pornography is beyond the confines of our current collection, mission, criteria, and policies.  they are likely acting outside the confines of the board's broadly defined statutory functions.

claims of autonomy should not protect the board where it chooses to stray beyond its mission, especially where citizen input is expressly denied in compliance with ala dictates.

our board of trustees should be directed by the township committee or a court to consider the input of the citizens.  perhaps a public municipal question on the ballot is appropriate.  if the board refuses to act thereafter, it should be disbanded and immediately replaced by those who will represent the citizens of the township, not the ala.

will the township committee help?  no.  having spoken at some meetings, i was told the township refuses to place an appropriate public question on the ballot because the library acts autonomously.  the committee did not care that the library is essentially admitting it is acting outside its mission.

since i began this effort i have been joined by numerous citizens and now we are all working together with the goal not of putting filters into the library, but of getting the library to consider and comply with the wishes of the community as a whole, as determined by a ballot question or the like.

we want the issue go in front of the citizens so that they have some appropriate means for making their wishes known, acted upon, and enforced.  all citizens are invited to join us at  we are working together to have the wishes of the citizens followed, not the ala.

we are attending board meetings and committee meetings, writing letters to the press, and seeking the input of lawyers and judges.  we are passing out signs in community churches and businesses.  we are speaking with county judicial staff and us district attorneys, etc.

we ask all citizens to immediately stop supporting the library financially since it is not acting in trust for the citizens, as shown by the board's own words and actions.  all money should instead be directed to our organization so that we can begin the legal action necessary to return control of the library to the citizens, not the ala.  for example, the filing fee for an order to show cause from the equity judge to ask the township why it should not place a public question about filtering on the ballot costs $200.

as a letter noted in the jan. 29 edition, "long hill library officials should focus on installing computer filters," the board said it needs a really long time to get the filters just right to avoid lawsuits in case something slips through and someone sues.

well, the wait may soon be over.

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