Arundel libraries to use Web filters on computers

Decision follows ruling by U.S. Supreme Court

December 02, 2003|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

In an effort to keep library patrons from viewing pornography and other potentially offensive content on Internet sites, the Anne Arundel County Library Board of Trustees is installing filters on all of its library computers.

The board's decision last week follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the summer allowing Congress to tie some funding to whether a library system has filters on its computers restricting access to pornography.

The Anne Arundel County library system initially decided this year not to use filters because library officials worried about restricting free speech, but the trustees revisited that decision after the Supreme Court's ruling.

"We were always very concerned about the First Amendment rights, and the court cleared the way for us to filter without infringing on the First Amendment," said library spokeswoman Laurie L. Hayes.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision lets the Anne Arundel County library system apply the same guidelines to the Internet as it does to its collections, said library board President Doris Jackson.

"We have never bought pornographic books as a library system, so we decided to continue that policy to the Internet," she said.

Hayes said that although the library doesn't depend on the federal government for much of its funding, officials were concerned about how to handle access to sites that may be illegal or inappropriate for public viewing.

Over a 13-month period between 2002 and this year, the county system recorded 54 complaints about inappropriate Internet use that were serious enough to require documentation.

The new filtering system, called the Smart Access Manager System, will cost the library about $87,000 to install in its 15 branches.

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