Summer 2001

The Trustee communicates issues affecting libraries and library services. Once a library and systems join LTA, all their trustees automatically receive this quarterly publication published by LTA. To learn more about membership in LTA, Click Here.

Legislative Update

By Mable Robertson, NYSALB Trustee, Legislative Chair

Summer 2001 issue of Trustee

The role of the library trustee is defined in large part by our responsibility to set policies governing the use of our facility and collections. The emergence of the Internet, as a vital information tool, has created an urgency to meet our responsibilities in this area. While determining what constitutes “appropriate” print materials can often be thorny, the challenge becomes greater when the medium is the Internet which is unregulated and expanding rapidly. There is useful information on line, but also material that may be harmful particularly to minors. Limiting access to inappropriate and illegal materials, while providing access to other rich resources is a challenge.

Trustees have to make these decisions in an environment shaped by the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), Federal legislation passed last year. This law places restrictions on the use of funding available through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Universal Services Discount Program (E-Rate). To remain eligible for federal funding, the law requires that libraries establish Internet safety policies incorporating technology protection measures which block or “filter” images that are obscene or harmful to minors.

The rules governing implementation of CIPA were issued by the Federal Communications Act (FCC) in April. While libraries are not required to install filters immediately to be in compliance with CIPA, they must demonstrate by October 2001 that effective steps are being taken toward compliance. Filters must be in operation by July 1, 2002 in order to remain eligible for the E-Rate and LSTA. The future of CIPA remains unclear, however.  The American Civil Liberties Union, joined by the American Library Association and state organizations including the New York Library Association, has filed a legal challenge that could be decided late this year or early 2002.

The Federal CIPA mandate places the issue squarely in front of library trustees nationwide.  Issues of open access and implementation costs pose major concerns. The cost of not complying could be even higher (particularly if the E-Rate funding is jeopardized). At Brooklyn Public Library, the board of trustees has engaged in thoughtful discussions about this issue. There are many opinions regarding the effectiveness of filters. There is universal agreement, however, that we must provide children with a safe and nurturing environment in every library area especially while online.

The E-Rate program has been helpful in bringing technology to public libraries. Likewise, LSTA has funded innovative programs across the nation, especially in New York State. The CIPA stakes are high.  Trustees must examine the issue of open access vs. filtering and make an informed choice. With or without CIPA, however, the challenge of establishing and refining appropriate use policies will grow more complex. Shared dialogue among trustees throughout New York State will be vital in helping us meet this challenge.

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