St. Johns Libraries Debate Internet Filters
Maraghy, Mary, The Florida Times Union
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
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. …