Douglas, El Dorado libraries review Net filters

El Dorado and Douglas County librarians say they are evaluating their options after last month's U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring public libraries that receive federal money to install filtering software to prevent the viewing of pornographic images.

But the ruling "doesn't change anything for us at this moment in time" because the county library system is not receiving federal grant money, said Jeannie Amos El Dorado County library director. That grant money, known as E-Rate, subsidizes schools and public libraries for Internet and telephone access.

However, if the county were to apply for the grants, it would have to comply with the federal law, Amos said.

The county library system at one time had filtering software, but it caused technical problems and was removed.

With the ruling, Amos said she will work with the county's information services department to get it to install new software for all six library branches. She did not know how much it would cost.

"My philosophy is there should be an ability to filter, and (people) should be allowed to turn it on and off when requested," Amos said. "A parent should be able to say they want the Internet at the library that their child will be using to be filtered, and we would be happy to comply with that."

Douglas County, which has a library branch at Zephyr Cove, will also work to comply with the law, said Library Director Linda Deacy.

Prior to the Supreme Court decision, the Children's Internet Protection Act passed in Congress, but did not get signed into law when it was tacked onto several appropriation measures in 2000.

As the legislation sat dormant, First Amendment, civil liberties and librarian groups sued the government, saying the legislation is unconstitutional.

The issue went through the federal Court of Appeals process until it reached the Supreme Court.

"The decision was helpful because, for the first time, libraries now have a direction to go," Deacy said. "Before we were in limbo, not knowing which direction to take."

The Douglas County Public Library had Internet filters on their computers in 1997. However, the software was problematic, filtering out more than just pornography.

"We're in Nevada, and we saw high school and college kids come to the library to do their papers on things like hate groups, the Oklahoma City bombing, topics like that, while we saw the university students doing research on topics like gaming," Deacy said. "The problem with the filters we had installed is that they routinely blocked out things like that, information that can be used for research."

Deacy will meet with the library board to discuss how to implement the software and at what cost.

At the Zephyr Cove branch, the process will be easy to do because each computer station is hooked up to the Internet independently, she said. But the main branch of the Douglas Library in Minden will be more difficult because all Internet access is done through a server.


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