Thursday, May 17, 2007

Internet proposal would harm libraries

John Jansson, Trustee
Winnetka-Northfield Public Library District
Published May 16, 2007

Among the bills passed by the Illinois House and sent to the Senate is a proposal that promises to create more mischief than good. Innocently named the Internet Screening in Public Libraries Act, House Bill 1727 would force all public libraries and school libraries to install filters on all public access computers to prevent access to child pornography or other obscene depictions.

There is no question that child pornography is disgusting and child pornographers should be held accountable before the law for their sick and criminal behavior. The reality of HB-1727 is that it doesn't attack the problem.

The proposal would better be called the Public Librarians and School Librarians Don't Care About Children and We Gotta Straighten Them Out bill. It assumes that librarians are doing nothing about the problem or are oblivious to it.

That simply is not true.

Public and school librarians are very aware of the dangers posed by Internet access, in addition to the benefits, and have done something about it.

The Winnetka-Northfield Public Library District, for instance, has a rule that no child in the children's area can use a computer without supervision of a librarian or other responsible adult.

In the adult area, all computer screens face the librarian's desk so he or she can monitor them and take any action required.

Other libraries have similar policies.

In addition, some public libraries are adding filtering software -- without legislative mandate.

There is absolutely no evidence that local control is failing.

The bill would intrude unnecessarily into local communities, creating a problem where none has been shown to exist.

The bill also creates other problems.

Among them:

- It proposes a technological solution that doesn't always work. Any filtering software will block Web sites that are not pornographic, and no filtering software can totally outwit the creativity of pornographers. Thus the librarians who depend on filters rather than personal supervision can still be found guilty under this bill.

- It would be expensive for school libraries and public libraries, which have better ways to spend taxpayer money to help children. The Illinois Library Association estimates a typical network installation would cost $10,000 plus $3,000 a year. The bill imposes fines of $100 a day for any offense, which will further squeeze public library and school budgets that are already stretched.

Legislators who truly want to protect and support children have many options:

- Consider House Bill 660 and Senate Bill 1472, which mandate schools to teach Internet safety to students. Fund the program if adopted.

- Provide funding to distribute the pamphlet "The Internet & Our Children" to libraries and schools. The publication, from the Illinois Library Association, is an excellent teaching tool.

1 comment:

SafeLibraries.org said...

Librarian protest 'misleading'

May 17, 2007

The librarians' May 14 protest was calculated to mislead the public.

Under the guise of "educating" their patrons, librarians across Illinois parroted talking points directly from the radical left wing Illinois Library Association in an effort to build opposition to pornography filters. The public deserves the full story in order to fill in the gaps of these "talking points."

Talking point: If HB 1727 passes, libraries could be forced to discontinue Internet service. Fact: This is utter nonsense. Virtually 100 percent of the public libraries in the United States provide Internet access, and 21 states have legislation similar to HB 1727. Obviously, Internet filtering legislation has not led to the loss of Internet access in public libraries.

Talking point: Filters are too expensive. Fact: The cost of installing filters is offset by federal funding and actually saves taxpayers money in the long run. Poor/urban libraries gain the most federal funding once they filter.

Talking point: Because filters aren't perfect, librarians can't "in good conscience" sign a pledge to follow this law because they don't want to be held accountable if some pornography slips through. Fact: Librarians will be held accountable for utilizing the filters, not ensuring their perfection.

Talking point: This law takes away local control. Fact: No, it doesn't. Libraries get most of their revenue from local sources, not the state. This law only affects state funding.

Libraries can choose to forego state funding if they really want to continue to provide access to Internet pornography. As it is, these libraries are already passing up federal funding for the same reason and passing the costs on to the taxpayers.

Talking point: Filters are inflexible. Fact: No, they're not. Incorrectly blocked sites can be easily unblocked.

Talking point: Filters hurt the poor. Fact: Utilizing filters saves libraries an average of $17,000 per year in federal funding, and libraries in poor areas are entitled to the greatest discounts. The fact is that not filtering hurts the poor.

Denise Varenhorst

President

Family Friendly Libraries

Suwanee, GA