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Porn filters shelved for now

Library won't meet Dec. 31 deadline

The state-mandated deadline of Dec. 31 to install Internet filters on public library computers is fast approaching, and the Moffat County Library staff members have no intention of meeting it.

Short on funds, the library’s Board of Trustees and director say they will wait to install software to filter pornography from the library’s computers until they see how the process goes at other libraries.

“We’ll see how they implement it in larger areas and let them debug it for us,” said Dave Longwell, Library Board president.



At a board meeting Tuesday, library Director Donna Watkins said the filtering software would cost $18,610.

There seems to be no penalty for not complying with the mandate, Watkins said. The Library Board has opted to include the filtering software as an item on their monthly meeting agenda, and they think they might install the software by April or May.



About one year ago, the Moffat County commissioners requested the library to investigate installing filtering software on library computers, and the library board “generally supported” the request, Longwell said. This was before the state mandated the filtering software installation. The estimated price for the software was $7,000, and the library board budgeted for it in August.

But on Aug. 15, the state mandated the software installation, and, Watkins said, the cost of the software increased outside the library’s price range.

However, Douglas County, south of Denver, has 350 computers and plans to meet the Dec. 31 deadline, albeit reluctantly, by installing software from a company called Websense for an annual fee of $7,000, Douglas County Libraries director James LaRue said.

However, Douglas County’s system will meet just the minimal requirements of the law, he said.

Watkins was on vacation and couldn’t be contacted for further comment as to who quoted her the $18,610 price. But at Tuesday’s meeting, she stressed that if the library board were to meet the mandate, it should purchase quality software.

Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs also should be in compliance with the mandate by the end of the year, reference librarian Alysa Selby said. Her library is a member of a 20-library consortium that is purchasing Internet filtering software as a group. Moffat County used to be a member of that consortium, but it no longer is.

The group has found a filtering program that works so well Selby is having the software installed on her own computer. The program blocks pornography while allowing through medical research, an aspect with which many programs struggle. For example, some programs won’t allow patrons to research breast cancer because it contains the word breast.

“When it comes to the idea of filtering, we want to make sure it only blocks offensive materials,” Selby said.

Many librarians have challenged the need for the mandate.

“All of us have had a few instances of people abusing a public resource — but most of us have also dealt with it by saying to people, ‘Knock it off. You’re in a public place and you know better,'” LaRue said.

In Steamboat, patrons viewing pornography are hardly ever a problem, Selby said. She thought it was more of a problem in urban areas.

Jim Pogline uses a computer at the Moffat County Library two or three times a week to check his e-mail. The computer monitors are easily visible to anyone nearby. He said he’s never seen anyone viewing pornography.

But several months ago, the Internet browser on one computer would open a pornographic Web site for no apparent reason, Pogline said. He didn’t know whether the problem had been fixed.

Ryan Downard of Price, Utah, is in Craig working for Colowyo Coal Co. He uses a library computer about once a week, and though he hasn’t seen anyone viewing pornography, he thought the filtering software was a good idea.

“We don’t need that kind of (stuff) around and available to kids,” Downard said.

“It’s not appropriate in a public place.”


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