overblocking

RI Libraries Overblock Under CIPA
Library Journal (1976) 130 no10 18-19 Je 1 2005

After a report written by the ACLU of Rhode Island criticizing the state’s public libraries with too full compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), libraries began to consider how to allow adult patron’s full, uncensored access more easily and consider less stringent blocking standards. The report noted that the company chosen to provide filtering for Rhode Island’ libraries actually went beyond that which was dictated by the Supreme Court ruling. The ACLU also reported that at least one third of libraries do not notify patrons that they can ask a librarian to deactivate the filter.

Nationally a survey revealed that most, but not all libraries who responded to the survey implemented procedures which allow quick disabling. That said, individual librarians reported that since July 1, 2003 most had gotten 50 requests or less to disable the filter, possibly indicating that librarians aren’t telling adult patrons that the filter can be disabled.

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This report is brief, but it does bring up a recent take on the issue of filtering now that CIPA has been in place for over two years. Filtering software is getting better, but is still imperfect. Considering that the internet is still and will always be growing, there is always the possibility of sites being blocked that shouldn’t be.

It seems that it would be a simple solution to place a notice at each individual computer terminal that gave information about the filtering software and letting each adult patron know that it can be turned off if they wish it to be. Just because a notice exists though, does not necessarily mean that patrons will read the notice. There also seems to me that patrons might be reluctant to ask that the filters be removed because they’re afraid of how that might make them look – like they’re specifically looking for “questionable” material. I also think that the attitude that a librarian takes when talking to patrons about filtering or when a patron asks for the filters to be removed is very important – the patron should not be made to feel that they are asking for something “special”.

At MCPL filters are not used. A policy that I think is nice for everyone – staff and patrons alike. That said, not every library can afford to operate without federal dollars and must use some kind of filtering software.

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