Local library likely to filter out porn | AspenTimes.com

Local library likely to filter out porn

Tim Mutrie

A law being considered in Washington, D.C., could force the Pitkin County Library to block “hardcore” pornographic sites on its two open access Internet computers.

“If this family act passes, we’ve already got some measures in place,” said Pitkin County Librarian Kathy Chandler.

Since the beginning of last summer, the library in Aspen has had 12 computers with partial to full Internet access: three have access to the book catalog and some on-line information sources the library subscribes to; seven have filtered access, with blocks on chat rooms, e-mail, games and adult entertainment; and two have open access.

An amendment to the Child Safety and Protection Act was approved by voice vote last month in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is currently being discussed in the Senate. Offered by Republican Reps. Bob Franks of New Jersey and Charles Pickering of Mississippi, the law would require that all library and school computers with Internet access be filtered to keep children from reaching sites with pornography, obscenity and other material deemed “harmful to minors.”

If the law passes, Chandler said the Pitkin County Library will respond by filtering out adult sites on the two computers that presently are unfiltered.

The Garfield County Library system, according to Library Director Jaci Spuhler, will respond by unplugging the Internet, for several reasons, including the limitations of “keyword filtration.” Also, a component of the proposed law stipulates that libraries not in compliance would have to repay telecommunications service discounts, amounting to more than $10,000 in Garfield County’s case.

Chandler said the Pitkin County Library’s filtration system – Web Sense – is done by human beings actually surfing the net, and therefore doesn’t block appropriate usage. For instance, keyword filtration would block a user from going to a site containing the word “breast,” even if that person was looking for information about breast cancer.

Chandler said the Pitkin County Library is trying to suit the needs of all its users, while maintaining the library’s integrity as a source for information, and not necessarily communication.

“When we first started providing computers with e-mail capabilities, the computers got monopolized by e-mail users, and that wasn’t our intention,” Chandler said. “The reason we were providing access to the Internet was to provide information services that we pay subscriptions to, such as the Information Access Company, that has 1,500 magazines in it, most of them full text.

“Basically we were looking to expand our collection by using the Internet, and then also to provide access to the free reference sites,” she explained. “So we had a lot of money tied up in subscriptions to things, but the fly in the ointment was that people came in and used them all the time for e-mail.”

Chandler said the Aspen library uses filters to keep people focused on sites they can’t access elsewhere. The intent was never to be a substitute for home computers, she said.

“It seems like somebody needs to guard the rights of people who want to use the library for research, and that’s what we’ve done,” she said. “We’re protecting the rights of people, as well as that of open access, with the two open access computers.

“The debate is whether to provide access to information or access to communication. We’re trying to do both, but obviously with an emphasis on information.”


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