The library's integrity
Saturday, September 11, 2004
A problem that confronts all public libraries is illustrated in the Morris County Internet library service's recent rejection of federal funding to upgrade public-access, Internet-linked personal computers.
To qualify for the $10,000 grant, the Morris Automated Information Network, which supplies Internet service to area libraries, would have had to adhere to a federal law requiring the installation of stringent anti-porn filters.
That's not an objectionable condition on the face of it, but the problem is that existing anti-porn filters also can prevent library patrons from accessing legitimate information. For example, the filters would not permit a user to call up anything containing the word "breast" -- which means it would be impossible to access information on breast cancer.
Most libraries rightly put a high value on being as open as possible. In this case, MAIN determined the filters were simply too cumbersome. Still, the question of people using publicly funded computers to access unsavory Web sites also needs to be considered. Some libraries have designated certain computers for use exclusively by minors -- and those have the anti-porn filters.
Such an accommodation might be considered by the libraries in the Morris County library system. Still, we think MAIN's decision was a wise one.