Magazine article American Libraries

Michigan Library Charges $100 for Unfiltered Internet Access

Magazine article American Libraries

Michigan Library Charges $100 for Unfiltered Internet Access

Article excerpt

For three days in August, anyone seeking unfiltered Internet access at the Georgetown Township Library in suburban Grand Rapids, Michigan, would have paid $100 per hour. The pay-per-view policy was established by the township administration in anticipation of a new state law, which went into effect August 1, that empowers library trustees to filter "matter that is harmful to minors" but also calls for "reserving, to individuals 18 years of age or older or minors who are accompanied by their parent or guardian, one or more terminals that are not restricted."

Town officials, who had ordered filters on all eight public computers in February, imposed the prohibitive fee August 2 even as they dutifully authorized the library to turn off the blocking software on one computer to comply with state law.

However, they rescinded the fee and reblocked the one unfettered machine on August 4 after township counsel advised that the statute is unclear on whether filtering libraries were obligated to offer patrons the option of filter-free access.

Georgetown Township officials seem to be alone in their interpretation of the new law, which passed June 9 as an amendment to the patron confidentiality statute. Michigan Library Association Executive Director Marianne Hartzell told American Libraries that the law unequivocally requires filtering libraries to offer patrons one unblocked Internet workstation. Michigan Rep. Nancy Cassis (R-Oakland County), who sponsored the legislation, shares that interpretation, according to the August 6 New York Times. …

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