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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Funding and freedom
Keywords Students, Children, Censorship, Libraries, Local government, Library users
While many library systems are arguing the advisability of filtering, a bill in Utah is taking it one step further. The bill stipulating that public libraries with public Internet access are only eligible for state funding if they have "adopted a policy to restrict access by minors to Internet or online sites that contain obscene material" won the unanimous approval of the House Public Utilities and Technology Committee on 3 February. The bill has moved to the full House for consideration. The sponsor, Rep. Marlon Snow (R-Orem), told the Associated Press that her intent was to keep children from accessing sites containing obscenity. State Librarian Amy Owen noted that in some libraries "a student can ask a librarian to disable the filter for legitimate research purposes". An amendment proposed 4 February would exempt students who are 16 or older from filtered searches when they are "engaged in assigned school research".
Likewise, the Colorado's Senate Education Committee approved a bill on 12 January that would require school and public libraries to use filtering software or enforce a policy that restricts minors from obscene or illegal material in order to qualify for $2 million available in state funding. Democrats objected to the legislation as "tantamount to censorship", but lacked the votes to stop it from going to the full Senate. However, Sen. Stan Matsunaka (D-Loveland) put a hold on the bill in order to address censorship concerns. The Democrats then found themselves allied with conservative Sen. John Andrews (R-Englewood) against the bill as well, but not because of censorship issue. He firmly believes public libraries should be exclusively funded with local taxes and contributions. Last year Colorado Governor Bill Owens vetoed a bill linking library funding to proof of preventing children from violent or sexually explicit Web sites.
Another Colorado bill, stemming from the Columbine High School murders, was postponed indefinitely 11 January by the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would have required public libraries, "upon request of the parent or guardian of a child under 18 years of age, to disclose such child's library records to the parent or legal guardian". It would not only have applied to circulation records, but also to any materials requested by minors. HR 1118 was submitted by Representative Don Lee (R-Littleton) upon the request of a Columbine task force. The task force approached Rep. Lee after their discussion of whether the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were aware of the plans. According to the Denver Rocky Mountain News, opponents of the bill were afraid that it would have a significant fiscal impact on public and school libraries in the state.