A few months ago, we began discussing in the Policy Committee our thoughts on updating the filtering policy (or policies actually). This discussion was kicked off by a desire by some trustees to revisit the topic following the decision in the so-called North Central Library case. In that case, the federal court (and state Supreme Court) held the North Central Library system could filter all computers, no exceptions.
Here is a story in the Daily World detailing our discussion so far.
Here are some documents that are part of our packet this month’s meeting, where filtering will be a topic.
- Historical review of TRL’s internet policies going back to 1995
- Memo outlining how our filters work — An important thing to note here is that TRL currently does filter on all public computers all the time one type of otherwise legal content, filter avoidance services.
- Area library internet policies — Fort Vancouver, like North Central, also filters all machines with no option for unfiltered.
- Results of our staff survey — As you might imagine, TRL staff is largely against changing the policy.
Here are my thoughts in no particular order:
1. I’m fine with the current policies. I think they strike a balance between personal freedom of thought and public safety. Currently we filter somewhere around 60 percent of the public computers, with the remaining 40 percent with privacy techniques and the possibility that the default filter could be turned off. All of our computers in childrens’ areas are also filtered with no option to turn it off.
2. We always filter for child pornography, malware and software that could circumvent the filter in the first place.
3. Where I think we fail in our policies is explaining how we might make one particular branch all-filtered, no exceptions. In two cases (Elma and Salkum), TRL staff have removed the option to unfilter computers because of a risk to public safety. These decisions were made with board knowledge. While our policies are written broadly enough to allow for this practice, we should spell it out.
4. And, while I’m at it, just this final thought: let’s get beyond talking about filtering computers. Filters and censorware are obviously part of the library landscape. For now I think we’ve found a good balance between the rights and needs of our patrons and the sensibilities of our public. But, I don’t to make this filtering discussion the only time we get to talk about the internet on the board level.
If we think the internet is so bad it needs to be filtered, let’s get focused on making the internet a better place. More edit-a-thons, more answering questions on Yahoo Answers (or Metafilter or Reddit). More of embracing the internet and less keeping it at arms length.