Magazine article American Libraries

Net Filter Firms Meet with Symons

Magazine article American Libraries

Net Filter Firms Meet with Symons

Article excerpt

ALA President Ann Symons hosted an all-day meeting at ALA Headquarters in Chicago March 12 with representatives of a dozen manufacturers of filtering software. She held the meeting "to provide a forum for discussion of ALA's concerns about the use of filters in libraries and future developments in Web management technology."

Ten ALA member-leaders also talked to the group, including Intellectual Freedom Committee chair Steven Herb, who described how better products could meet the needs of librarians in their commitment to intellectual freedom on the Internet.

Karen Schneider, ALA councilor and American Libraries' Internet Librarian columnist, told the company representatives that "librarians will not use tools that compromise their professional authority." She said that a better filter would be one that allows librarians to know the criteria used for blocking and permits configurable access control at the workstation.

Others voiced concerns that Web-management software should:

* allow individuals to choose for themselves and with their children what they wish to view;

* focus on guiding users to quality sites;

* allow librarians to review blocked sites and provide a mechanism to notify the company when sites are inappropriately prohibited;

* clear the screen after each use so users do not know what others have been viewing; and

* be multifunctional, easy to administer, and integrate well with existing products.

The software manufacturers acknowledged that although filtering technology has evolved, overblocking can occur. They also noted that filters are not 100% effective in blocking pornography, that children can circumvent them, and that parents need to be advised of this.

Some software manufacturers maintained that although the technology exists to produce filters customized for a public-library setting, ALA has not provided a clear road map for their development. Nor does the Association seem to realize that customized software could be more expensive to administer.

Jim Goulka of EdView observed that "ALA needs to clarify fundamental ambiguities" in its position, especially in defining "parental responsibility. …

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