Computers and pornography: Library District Internet policy explained

Recent letters to this newspaper (Stop library porn viewing,” June 23; “Protect young eyes,” June 30; “Time for discussion,” June 30) have expressed concern over patrons viewing objectionable content on Hood River County Library District’s publicly accessible computers and networks.

HRCLD’s board of directors will be addressing these concerns at their next meeting on Tuesday, July 17, at 7 p.m. the Jeanne Marie Gaulke Meeting Room at the Hood River Library. The public is encouraged to attend and have their views heard.

Some have suggested that HRCLD install content filters on its networks. For those who are unaware, content filters are software designed to block computer users from accessing certain material on the Internet. Depending on the criteria set by an organization’s policies, such content could include anything from nudity, sexual content and hate speech to social networking, literary erotica and information about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues.

Typically, content filters can be overridden, although it requires a computer user to ask a staff member. While filtering technology has developed remarkably over the past several years, they still block wanted as well as unwanted content.

For instance, filters may block sites related to breast cancer, support sites for GLBT youth, and others.

Per our Internet and Computer Use Policy, HRCLD does not filter any publicly accessible computers or networks. This continues the policy of the previous county-run library. This is one of among many approaches public libraries around the state have taken.

Some, like us, do not filter at all. Some filter all computers (The Dalles Wasco County Library). Others offer users an option when they initially log on (Multnomah County Library). Still others filter only for minors unless their parents/guardians indicate otherwise (Fort Vancouver Regional Library).

Libraries that accept any federal monies — for instance, through the E-Rate telecommunications reimbursement program — are required per the Children’s Internet Protection Act to filter all of their networks, public and staff. HRCLD does not receive any federal monies and therefore is not subject to this requirement.

While HRCLD does not filter its networks, we have procedures in place if a computer user is viewing content objectionable to others. If we receive a complaint, staff will approach the person and remind him/her that s/he is in a public place and ask him/her to please use discretion in what s/he views.

Typically the individual will then change his/her viewing habits. In our year of being open, I, as the typical enforcer of the policy, have only approached four individuals in this manner, although other staff likely have had such interactions as well.

Additionally, our Internet and Computer Use Policy forbids conducting illegal activities on our equipment and networks. This includes activities such as viewing child pornography, violating copyright laws and distributing or creating malicious software.

However, it is also illegal to show pornography to children, thus giving us a tool to prevent people from viewing pornography in confined spaces with children present, such as the Cascade Locks and Parkdale branches or the children’s area at the Hood River branch. This situation has only arisen once, to my knowledge.

The preceding text explains HRCLD’s general policies and practices. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions, comments or concerns: 541-387-7062 or buzzy@hoodriverlibrary.org.

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Buzzy Nielsen is director of the Hood River County Library District, a taxing district separate from any other. Nielsen notes, “I have also provided my personal opinion as a professional librarian, which is based on my 17 years of experience in the library profession. It is not the official opinion of HRCLD or its board of directors.”

In it, Nielsen states, “Even with its vast quantities of objectionable — and illegal — content, to filter the Internet, just as with censoring materials within the library, would detract from the medium as a whole, a medium that thrives on freedom.”

For space reasons, Nielsen’s column is available online at www.hoodrivernews.com.

Printed copies are available at the Hood River News front desk.

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Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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