Glendale, Tempe, and Mesa libraries censor their adult internet viewers. Phoenix library censors the children internet viewers. We live in a police state! I suspect these library government goons don't give a rats ass about the First Amendment


Librarians await ruling on filtering Supreme Court to decide case on Web access

By Connie Cone Sexton

The Arizona Republic

Nov. 25, 2002

Although their methods on Internet filtering differ, library directors in five major cities in Maricopa County agree on two things: Deciding whether to limit Internet searches is about the toughest issue they have ever handled and they're glad the matter is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Glendale, Tempe and Scottsdale have filters on all computers in their libraries, while Phoenix and Mesa use them only on computers in the children's areas.

The high court agreed recently to decide whether the nation's public libraries should screen sexually explicit Web sites in exchange for federal money. The court is to begin hearing arguments in February, and a ruling may not come until summer.

"I think it would be good to have the issue laid to rest," said Rita Hamilton, Scottsdale library director.

Toni Garvey, Phoenix library director, agreed.

"I don't remember a more challenging issue. We're in the business of doing what's best for the kids, but we also have the First Amendment issues of free speech to take seriously. It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court does.

"When we start blocking access to information, we're representing the government blocking access and we have to tread very carefully," Garvey said. "It comes with a price, and we're all dealing with that right now."

Teri Metros, Tempe library director, believes most patrons support having filters on all computers.

"From time to time, we have complaints but sometimes we can free up the site," Metros said. "I suspect the filtering may go away if the Supreme Court comes down and says it's a violation of free speech."

Laurie Collins Compton has had her share of bumps along the Internet while doing searches at public libraries. During a recent visit to the Velma Teague branch in Glendale, she said she had been hit by "ol' Bessie" several times. "Bess" is the name of the computer filter software used by the Glendale libraries.

"I was searching for 'antiques' and then 'smoking pipes' for collectibles," the 35-year-old Youngtown resident said. "I couldn't get what I wanted because it may have linked it with drugs or something."

Rodeane Widom, Glendale library director, said that life has been easier since they added filters to all computers.

"We got access to the Internet in around 1993 or 1994, and it was still pretty new to people. Not having filters was, frankly, a problem," Widom said. "People got to some pretty provocative sites."

That's just why Phoenix library patron Linda Mason would like to see her city filter all computers.

"Children could be walking around and see something they shouldn't," she said, nodding to her 7-year-old daughter, Sarah, as they left the Yucca branch recently with an armload of books. "This is a public place."

But blocking all computers may not be fair to adults who are hampered by blocks of innocuous sites, said Patsy Hansel, Mesa library director.

"We decided not to filter for adults because the filters are so inaccurate. There are new sites coming online and sites that change addresses. Most filters only deal with sites in English. They can't filter for photographs and so immediately you see the problem," Hansel said. "It's messy trying to figure out how to deal with it."

Garvey said Internet filters are finicky and used to be worse.

"In the early days, people couldn't get to sites for Super Bowl 30 because it had triple X in the name. Or the Essex (Mass.) public library couldn't get on to their own home page because it had the word 'sex' in it."

Gladys Ann Wells, state librarian, said that Internet filtering has been a tough decision for city libraries.

"But that doesn't mean it's all bad," she said, adding that the debate has triggered more interaction between patrons and librarians and helped show the significance of libraries to a community.

"We're the only institution with a sense of place in the community," she said.

Reach the reporter at connie. or (602) 444-8894.

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