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ANOTHER VOICE: Library board of directors: We need you!

The porn topic returns a year later. Yes, there have been letters written, people stabbing each other in “letters to the editor” and making extreme comments about “Nazism” etc., but let’s look at some facts. I would like to challenge our library board of directors to do some research and get back to the community regarding our valid concerns. Here are some things I found:

If a library is federally funded it must comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act or CIPA (you can read the whole thing for yourselves, it’s fairly detailed). If it doesn’t comply with CIPA a library may be acting outside of the law.

Twenty-four states have Internet filtering laws that apply to publicly funded schools or libraries. CIPA requires public libraries that participate in the LSTA and E-rate programs to certify that they are using computer filtering software to prevent the on-screen depiction of obscenity, child pornography or other material harmful to minors. The act allows adult library patrons to request that a librarian disable the filtering software.

In order to receive E-rate discounts, libraries are not allowed to disable filtering programs for minor users. The Federal Communications Commission website provides background information about the Children’s Internet Protection Act (www.ncsl.org).

Supreme Court Ruling on CIPA: In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld CIPA, overturning an earlier court ruling that had prevented the law from taking effect in libraries. In United States v. American Library Association, the court ruled that CIPA does not violate the First Amendment, even though it may block some legitimate sites, because libraries may disable the filters for adult patrons upon request.

I believe the question really comes down to “how to filter” the computers; not whether they should be filtered. When NBC did a poll of 44,091 people, 16.8 percent of the people believed library patrons should exercise their First Amendment rights, even if it includes porn, but 83.2 percent of the people voted that libraries, even publicly funded libraries, should be able to restrict (i.e. filter) what patrons are allowed to see.

Rural Washington state library wins porn battle against Seattle ACLU (www.ncrl.org):

The ruling followed a decision handed down from the Washington State Supreme Court in May 2010. The Supreme Court found that the North Central Regional Library, the largest library district in the state of Washington, did not violate Article 1, Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution with its policy of filtering the Internet.

The North Central Regional Library’s 28 branches use an Internet filter to meet federal requirements and make collection decisions about Internet content. The library filters the Internet narrowly, but does filter pornography and gambling categories. The library’s mission is “To promote reading and lifelong learning.”

Director Dean Marney said, “Taxpayers are the winners in this case. Libraries should never be forced to use public funds to provide access to child pornography or to become illegal casinos. Libraries should be sanctuaries for people of all ages.”

Dan Howard, director of public services for 28 branch libraries, said, “What we are doing works. It is fair and equitable and the courts have affirmed that it is constitutional. We build community with everything we do.”

Alright, Library Board of Directors, this is what it says on the Hood River County Library website about you: “The new Library Board welcomes your suggestions and questions. Can you help us envision our new library? What services are important to you? Public input is much appreciated!”

Hood River’s taxpaying citizens have questions, suggestions (filters as one suggestion) and would love for you to address this issue and get back to us. Thanks!

n

Carolyn Zuck lives in Hood River.

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