Fairbanks libraries reconsider pornography filters

Posted: Friday, June 27, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) The Fairbanks North Star Borough is considering anti-pornography filters for Internet computers at its two libraries following the U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday allowing the federal government to withhold funding from libraries that do not have them.

The Noel Wien Public Library and the North Pole Branch Library are among an estimated 22 of 88 public libraries in the state affected by the decision.

Noel Wien director Greg Hill is studying the filters' effectiveness and cost. Hill will advise Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles on whether the library should purchase filters or forgo federal money.

Little of the library's $3.5 million budget is in jeopardy. The federal government pays for the library's Internet service provider, a subsidy of $2,795 this year.

''We want to comply with the law,'' Hill said. ''At the same time, we want to maintain as much access for our customers as possible. We're going to try to do a balancing act.''

The Supreme Court decision permits computer users to ask that filters be shut off.

Hill said even the best filters allow 10 percent of the problem sites to be displayed. They also block some nonpornographic sites.

Currently, the library's Internet computers have filters that can be turned on and off by users.

At the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, pornography blocks are already in place. The district bought the blocks after monitoring sites students and staff were viewing and finding that some were pornographic.

It's unlikely the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which does not have anti-porn blocks, is affected by the Supreme Court decision, said Rheba Dupras, head of information services there.

''Our audience is adult,'' she said.

George Smith, acting state librarian, is advising public libraries on what the court decision means and what filters are on the market. He's not telling communities whether to buy the filters. That decision lies with each community, he said.

''Some of the communities in our state will clearly not filter, and they'll just not ask for the federal (Internet provider money,)'' he said.

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