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'Net filtering unresolved at library
"The Kitsap Regional Library will delay a vote on installing Internet filtering at system terminals, library officials say.The library board does not want to take a vote until it understands the rules, and the way the law is being applied, said Sarah Scribner, head of reference and information services for KRL.The board's vote also awaits the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the new federal Children's Internet Protection Act, challenged in April by the American Library Association and American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuits are scheduled to be heard in February 2002, Scribner said.The act says that all public libraries and schools nationwide must install Internet filtering software - designed to screen out pornographic and harmful material - or lose some federal funding. While several adult terminals and all children's terminals are already filtered at each KRL branch, CIPA would require filtering of all terminals, including those used by staff.At its July 17 meeting, the KRL board did vote to revise the system's Internet policy to clarify the current position.Language was added forbidding KRL Internet users from downloading illegal material. But the board also codified First Amendment rights to support public access to constitutionally protected material at KRL, formally stating: No one has the right to censor another patron's access. According to Carol Schuyler, head of regional and children's services, such unrestricted access is consistent with the KRL's historical stance of allowing minors access to all library material. The library has always chosen to defer to parents' prerogatives, she said.If we have a parent who doesn't want their child to rent videos, say, or check out non-fiction books, we put it in the records, and when that child checks out material, the parameters come up, Schuyler said. For underage Internet users, the library has assembled a children's web page with recommended links. A last addition to the KRL Internet policy defined filtering as technically incapable of blocking all offensive material.People think filters will solve the problem, Scribner said. We believe filters will not solve the problem - what they do is give a false sense of security.Scribner said relatively simple techniques, such as using a third computer to re-route blocked information to a KRL computer, may foil filtering.The issue has been debated throughout the summer. The board's June meeting was packed with anti-filtering proponents, while filtering supporters turned out in July.Because of the lawsuits, the government has given schools and libraries until fall 2002 to implement filtering. However, libraries must be able to demonstrate by October 2001 that they are in the process of finding solutions or lose telecommunications discounts.Scribner said that the KRL is uncertain how much of its $80,000 in federal funding could be lost. It could be as little as $6,000 or as much as $40,000, she said, depending on how the law is applied. KRL has taken preliminary steps to demonstrate that they are studying implementation of the law, such as discussing the issue in-house and holding open meetings. Scribner, like the Bainbridge library staff, supports the KRL policies.Whatever my own personal views might be, Scribner said, when I work at an institution, I support the views of that institution.As a library, we support the right for people to define their own access. "