City Commission Mandates Library Filters

City Commission Mandates Library Filters

Royal Oak (Mich.) Public Library will install filters on all but one of its adult computers, after the City Commission passed an ordinance mandating the action May 19. The statute overrides a decision by the library board not to use blocking software on adult computers.

The 4–3 vote was a reaction to the February arrest of a man who allegedly used the adult computer lab to view child pornography, the Royal Oak Daily Tribune reported May 20. The library had already taken several steps to prevent minors from viewing adult material, including having a staff member in the adult computer lab at all times, restricting children to their own filtered computer lab, limiting computer use to library card holders, and requiring identification before granting guest cards. “I believe the aforementioned library efforts will be more effective than filters that we know block appropriate sites and let through inappropriate sites,” library Director Metta Lansdale told American Libraries. Elected officials, however, didn’t think that the actions went far enough.

Commissioners acknowledged that filters may block legitimate research, and promised to reconsider the ordinance if that happens. “It’s not something we can’t revisit if you prove it is totally unworkable,” said Commissioner Terry Drinkwine, who voted for the ordinance. “The only way we will know is to put it into practice and see how it shakes out.”

Lansdale said that the process was a “terrific learning experience. The community got to learn why the library resists filters, and we engaged with the community.” She noted that “the vast majority of residents contacting either the Royal Oak Public Library or library trustees told us they did not want to see filters imposed,” although she added that there may be a number of filtering proponents in the city who did not talk with the library.

Lansdale said the library plans to install WebBlocker by May 29, the deadline mandated by the ordinance. One adult computer will be left unfiltered to stay in compliance with the Michigan Library Privacy Act.

Posted on May 24, 2008. Discuss.