Sacramento Library Authority Addresses Internet Filtering

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A March 27 Sacramento Public Library Authority Board meeting held to discuss the library system's Internet-filtering policy was likened to an old-fashioned book burning in a Sacramento News & Review article.



Adult library patrons are offered filtered Internet access unless they request otherwise, and minors are required to obtain a parent or guardian's written permission to disable the filters.


The American Civil Liberties Union, local educators and health professionals oppose the filters, calling them "clumsy" and "overbroad," adding that they occasionally block important health and sexuality information. They said a majority of the material is constitutionally protected, even if it is objectionable to some.


However, the filters are supported by religious and conservative groups and some members of the library board.


"Have some backbone," Matthew McReynolds of the Pacific Justice Institute, a law firm with a history of battling against gay rights, said at the meeting. "Stand up for the families in this region, not for predators that the ACLU seems so interested in protecting."


The Internet policy requires librarians to request that patrons viewing anything that "might interfere with the maintenance of a safe, welcoming and comfortable environment" to immediately change screens.


Library administrators reportedly sent invitations to those who had complained about Internet content, tipping the meeting's balance toward support of broader censorship. Many attendees reportedly accused the ACLU of trying to bring porn into the library.


After the meeting, County Supervisor and library board member Roger Dickinson told Sacramento News & Review that the matter was put on the agenda because conservative board members wanted to tighten restrictions on Internet content. The library board took no action last week and decided to revisit the issue later.


Dickinson told Sacramento News & Review that he's "sick of talking about it," adding that there have only been a handful of complaints about library guests viewing inappropriate material.


Dickinson said it would be difficult to determine what another patron is viewing without looking over his or her shoulder.


"It's seems to me like you'd have to try awfully hard to be offended," he said.


Among the board members seeking greater Internet restrictions is Sophia Scherman, who is running for re-election to the Elk Grove City Council under the slogan "Protecting Elk Grove's values."


"Pull down those sites! Clean them up!" she said before leaving the meeting for another engagement. "It would probably break every rule in the book, but I'd say go and unplug every computer in every library."


Scherman's declaration was met with a roar of applause.