Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Library Internet bill won’t work

The "Public Libraries Internet Policy Bill," House Bill 205, would require public libraries to implement a "technology protection measure" for all Internet use sessions and all users, regardless of age, at all public libraries in Idaho. Each Idaho public library would be required by law to either purchase filtering software or use free filtering software available.

Rep. Mack Shirley, sponsor of this bill, claims that the bill will allow local control by allowing our local board of trustees to set Internet use policy, but the bill will only allow us to be more restrictive than this proposed law, (which is already more restrictive than 25 other states with related laws on the books.) Our library staff will not be able to allow adults to choose unfiltered Internet access and only an "authorized representative" will be able to unblock sites for adults, and only then for "bona fide research."

This is a bad bill for a number of reasons:

- This bill will cost libraries money, either in costs to buy filters or staff time to implement free filters.

- Filtering software is expensive and public library budgets are already set for this fiscal year.

- There are numerous problems with free filtering software, including interoperability issues with existing software, over-blocking, under-blocking, etc.

- The bill does not define the term "bona fide research."

- This bill takes away local control from libraries and library boards by mandating one-size-fits-all solutions.

- There is no existing problem that proponents of the bill can identify.

Proponents of the bill, "Citizens for Decency," are highly mobilized and support this bill. It has already passed the House and is in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.

Please do not rubber-stamp this bill. Please let local libraries and boards set their own Internet use policy.

Susan Carlson

Chair, board of trustees

Hailey Public Library

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