St. Johns Libraries Discuss Adding Internet Filters to Block Porn | Public Spaces

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St. Johns Libraries Discuss Adding Internet Filters to Block Porn
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St. Johns Libraries Discuss Adding Internet Filters to Block Porn

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- A public workshop on internet filters on library computers Wednesday addressed several complaints from the community.

St. Johns County libraries currently do not have electronic filters on computers used by adults. But there are filters on computers used by children and teenagers in each of the county's branches, said St. Johns County Library Advisory Board Chairwoman Carolee Bertisch.

However, some have expressed concerns over the ability of adults to look up pornography on public computers.

Library Director Debra Rhodes Gibson said Wednesday that the board voted to change its internet policy recently to prohibit use that would be considered "harmful to children," but that new policy is still under legal review.

Gibson explained this new policy would allow library staff to ask people to navigate away from porn sites, though it would not add electronic filters.

Advisory Board Chairwoman Carolee Bertisch said the library must walk a fine line between protecting children and violating the Constitution.

"We're very concerned about the freedom of information and the first amendment," Bertisch explained.

The workshop took more than two hours and several people from the community expressed their opinion on adding filters. 

"My concern is my son looking for a book and walking past someone who is accessing this information," said one woman.

While many people wanted filters added, others thought it would take away people's freedom online.

Some people suggested the board add software that would block adult sites, but would allow librarians to lift the block if adults ask. 

"If we unfilter upon request, where are we?" Asked one library employee.  "Are we with this exact same situation?"

The library advisory board does not have the final say on whether to install internet filters. It can only make a recommendation to county commissioners, who must make the final decision.

The board will take up the issue again at its meeting on April  13 at the Ponte Vedra branch.

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