Libraries NIx Filters On Internet Service

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, June 25, 2004

HAMPTON - Local librarians are not sweating the possibility of losing federal funds for failing to install Internet filters on their computers.

The Children’s Internet Protection Act, approved by former President Bill Clinton, requires computer filters in libraries that receive federal funding.

Libraries in New Hampshire were given to the end of this month to install the filters or risk losing funds offered by the federal government to help pay for Internet access and computer setups.

Last week, the New Hampshire Library Association encouraged libraries in the state to forgo federal funds in a statement posted on its Web site.

It said filters block valuable information like research on breast cancer and give a false sense of security.

Library officials on the Seacoast say they don’t have filters and they don’t plan to install them anytime soon.

Instead, librarians said they plan to adhere to the Library Association and the American Library Association (ALA) resolution for providing unhindered Internet access.

The ALA says computer filters will keep patrons from reaching Web sites with information protected about various diseases including ones that are sexually transmitted.

Seacoast library officials said losing the federal funds will not be a big deal for them because they haven’t applied for the federal funding in four years. The reason is because it wasn’t worth their time and effort.

"You have to fill out a long application to get the funds," said Hampton Lane Memorial Library director Catherine Redden. "We did it one year and we only received a couple hundred dollars. The money wasn’t worth the time spent in filling out the application."

"It cost more for us to apply for the funds than what we would receive," said Seabrook Library director Buffy Heath.

Heath said the Seabrook Public Library believes in "intellectual freedom."

Filters block legitimate research and aren’t a foolproof method to block smut, Redden said.

Exeter Public Library director Hope Godino said they’re against installing filters.

"Filters are ineffective," said Godino. "Some filters only block words that are found on inappropriate sites and not the graphics. They also block information that is appropriate ... We believe installing filters infringes on people’s rights to privacy."

The ultimate filter should be the parents, Redden said.

"We believe it’s the family’s responsibility to watch what their children are doing or viewing while using the computers in the library," Redden said.

Redden said she’s not aware of past problems with patrons abusing the Internet.

She added the Lane Memorial Library’s Internet policy allows patrons unrestricted Internet access but forbids them from using the computers to view pornography.

"If we see someone who is viewing a page on the Web that is not appropriate, then we give them a warning," said Redden. "If they continue to view inappropriate material then they could lose their Internet privileges at the library."

Godino said they also have an Internet policy.

"We remind people they’re in a public place and that they should abide by the appropriate rules," she said.

Godino said they spend a lot of time educating children who use the computers at the library.

"We give out a list of what to do and what not to do while on the computer in the library," said Godino. "We also tell them not to trust all the information on the Web. Just because it’s on the Web doesn’t mean its true."

Although most libraries on the Seacoast are giving up the federal funds, some smaller libraries in New Hampshire have no choice but to install filters because they depend on the money.

Berlin Public Library director Denise Jensen said the library can’t afford to fight filtering because her library couldn’t provide Internet access without the funds.

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