Filter Flap Forces S.C. Director Out

Article excerpt

The departure of Philip Ritter as director of the Greenville County (S.C.) Library February 28 was the denouement of a drama over access issues that began shortly after Ritter was appointed four years ago.

The tension between Ritter and the library's 11-member board, which is appointed by the Greenville County Council, began within months of his appointment when a new board appointee demanded that he remove Playboy from the library's shelves, Ritter told American Libraries. Ritter declined, but by July 1998, when the board adopted a no-filtering policy for young people using the Internet in the 950,000-volume, 11-branch library, there were three dissenting votes on the board.

Differences over access broke into public view in December 1999, when the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported that male patrons used GCL computers to frequent sexually explicit Web sites and chat rooms, and Republican presidential candidate John McCain made an issue of GCL's unrestricted Internet access (AL, Feb., p. 18-20). Ritter's response was to defend the board's policy--free and open access to the Internet. An Associated Press report quoted him as saying, "The parent is the one responsible for the child."

The official board response, adopted in January, was to require minors to have written parental permission before they can surf the Internet on the library's unfiltered computers. "I wasn't looking for this kind of publicity, and neither was the library," Ritter said. In January, he offered his resignation, which the board declined to accept.

Then, on February 15, the county council unseated four of the five incumbent library trustees who were seeking reappointment, presumably over their opposition to the installation of filters. …