Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Libraries Debate Internet Filters

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Libraries Debate Internet Filters

Article excerpt

St. Johns County resident Velma Campbell hadn't realized how

easily adult material could be accessed on the Internet at her

public library until she recently saw a youth just a mouse-click

away from entering Playboy magazine's Web site.

"What kind of place are we living in?" said Campbell, a mother

of three, who was shocked to see the ad for Playboy on the

screen of a computer the child was using at the Bartram Trail

Branch Library in Fruit Cove.

Though the child never clicked on the ad to access the site,

Campbell complained to St. Johns County library officials, her

School Board representative and the County Commission.

Her complaint is one of a half dozen voiced since Internet

access became available free in St. Johns public libraries two

years ago. Libraries in Duval and Nassau counties use special

filtering software to screen out stuff like pictures of sex

acts. Clay County, which will offer Internet access for the

first time this fall, is planning to filter Internet stations in

its children's sections.

Restricting Internet access in public libraries is being

debated across the country, said Richard Matthews, deputy

director of the American Library Association's office for

intellectual freedom.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down legislation to

regulate sexually explicit or indecent material on the Internet,

calling it unconstitutional under the First Amendment, Matthews

said. Since then, finding ways to deal with community concerns

has become a real issue.

Some libraries, including those in Baker County, prohibit

Internet use by anyone under 18, unless accompanied by an adult.

St. Johns County uses no filters. However, it has put its

Internet computers in view of the circulation desk and has

librarians keep an eye on Internet users, officials said.

The debate over filtering Internet access in public libraries

is nothing new. Lawsuits have been threatened and filed across

the country. The American Civil Liberties Union questioned

Jacksonville's decision to filter but didn't sue.

Ultimately, the decision is up to communities and local


"It's a problem facing libraries across the country," said Ken

Sivulich, director of the Jacksonville Public Library. …

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