In a meeting for the public on March 14, 2004, entitled "Providing Internet Access Responsibly", John Opgaard, Automation Manager for the Topeka Shawnee County (KS) Public Library, presented what is, and basically has been, the public library's position on anything "censorship" over the decades--following in the footsteps of the ALA. The Topeka Public Library opposes the proposed Kansas House Bill 2420, and John has spoken on the opposing side to the legislature.
John's Powerpoint presentation presented every excuse under the sun for NOT using internet filtering. The presentation was filmed for later dissemination.
John's comments were very d-i-s-i-n-g-e-n-u-o-u-s...
COMMENT: He mentioned that the filter they use, Cybersitter, blocks sites such as Focus on the Family (a Christian organization), Peacefire.org (DUH...soulmate to the American Library Association in it's hatred for internet filtering), and many political sites. RESPONSE: Yes, quite possibly, but this is easily remedied in any and all filters by simply adding to a list of "blocked" or "acceptable" sites. John knows that.
COMMENT: It takes too much manpower having to deal with exceptions like these individual sites mentioned above.. RESPONSE: Well John, you just told us of how you had to remove 3 people today because they were viewing inappropriate sites (Oh yeah, and how many did you NOT catch, John? See note below.) If the library was to get an "enterprise capable" piece of software, costing no more than what is currently used, it would probably work like this one, http://www.n2h2.com/pdf/library_overview.pdf (which, as shown on page 2, simply pops up a screen indicating:
A. Descriptive messages tells why the page was blocked
B. Option to submit a request to the library to unblock the page.
C. Option to temporarily bypass the filtering entirely for a set time period.
D. Option to go back to previous page.
Can it get any easier than that? The library had perhaps 3 people involved removing the individuals and filling out paperwork on the offenders they did happen to notice. Having good filtering would make library life easier. John knows that.
COMMENT: "Won't block images" -- more deception. RESPONSE: If we've already blocked "beautifulbabes.com", we don't have to block "beautifulbabes.com/images/image1.jpg" See this page (filterlogix.html), for a more complete response. John knows that.
COMMENT: "Have to scan and check 12-30 frames per second on video". RESPONSE: SAME AS ABOVE!! John knows that.
COMMENT: No filter exists which will meet CIPA requirements. RESPONSE:
http://www.webjunction.org/do/DisplayContent?id=2102 (list of 6 of the more "enterprise" type filters) John knows that.
NOTE: The Bess filter (by N2H2) is THE MOST WIDELY USED ONE AND WELL RESPECTED FOR SCHOOL USE
RESPONSE: The fact that TSCPL uses Cybersitter indicates that they aren't taking this seriously. TSCPL has 170 computers. Although Cybersitter really is one of the best filters for home use, it really isn't considered generally useful for such a large environment like TSCPL. The bigger "enterprise type" filters mentioned in the list above should probably be used at TSCPL, and they probably would cost less than Cybersitter... typically in the range of $10-15 per computer.
NOTE: For TSCPL, with 170 computers (x $15), that's $2550 / year. The nice projector system they had in the room where we met probably cost over $10,000--just a small example of where our tax dollars are being spent.
RESPONSE: We didn't get to ask, but obviously other libraries around the country (such as the one documented in the discussion from Durham Co. N.C.) have found software that works and meets the requirements. If TSCPL and others like them didn't drag their feet so much on doing something about this problem, we probably wouldn't need the legislation being addressed by the Kansas state legislature..
NOTE: John wanted people to think they were really being proactive about monitoring their clientele. That obviously was NOT the case last summer when persons known to us walked through the adult section with their children in hand, and were apalled to see 5-6 computers where guys were viewing pornography. Upon asking the librarian about it, they were 1) Asked, "What organization are you with?" (to which they replied, "We're parents"!!), and 2) given further response that indicated they had a policy and it really wasn't to be of any concern to the public.
NOTE: A homeowner with a house valued at $120,000 in Shawnee County pays nearly $150/year in library taxes. If the TSCPL budget is $14 million, an additional cost of $5000 for this filtering software would cost this homeowner about 5 cents more per year. (That's based upon the library being fully supported by property tax, which it's not, so we might have to throw in a dime, just to be generous!!)
INTERESTING FACT: A question was asked about federal funds, and appears to be quite instructive for the Shawnee County taxpayer... It appears that TSCPL has given up federal funds (federal e-rate funding). The reason given by John was that they failed to qualify, but more than likely it's because they don't want to adhere to the CIPA (Child Internet Protection Act) requirements.
INTERESTING FACT #2: An off-duty police officer, hired by the library as a security officer, who stood at the back during the presentation made some comments about how there are known pedophiles who frequent the library and how they have to steer them away from the child section. It appears that the library really is NOT a safe place for parents to leave their children.
DECEPTION: The "Blocking of legitimate sites"
RESPONSE: Summary from this site... http://www.kff.org/entmedia/20021210a-index.cfm
A study done of 6 internet filters showed that at the most restrictive settings, filters blocked 24% of health sites--which might be used by teenagers for research or such... but at the least restrictive setting, they only blocked 1.4% of those sites. At the same time, at the most restrictive settings, they blocked 91% of legitimate pornography, but at the least, they still blocked 87% -- a nice trade-off for usefulness gained.
And that study was done in 2002. Internet filtering has definitely improved since then.
FINAL NOTE: John mentioned they were doing what the public required, to which someone said, "And who is the public?" (He explained that he meant "the library board".) Interestingly, there were about 8 people (er... public) at this presentation, 7 of which were seeking more protection from our library, and 1 of which was a legislator who came for the information. In addition, there was the Executive Director of the Library and his family. It seems that the public WAS SPEAKING... but the library personnel were NOT HEARING.
1."During 2,002, the Library served nearly 800,000 people and only 241 (0.03%) were expelled
for violating the policy", according to John's testimony.
e-mail: website@InternetFilters.orgClick here to go back.