Invitation to Focused Discussion
September 19, 1997
As you know, Santa Clara County's Library system is currently addressing
the issue of minors' access to the Internet. The key question facing the
library and its governing body is how minors should be guided in their
access to the Internet in public libraries.
The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, as a neutral and non-advocacy
organization, has agreed to conduct some research and to prepare a report
by October 5 of facts and opinions on this issue. The report is intended
to provide useful information to the library, the Citizens' Advisory Commission,
and the Joint Powers Authority Board as they attempt to reach a thoughtful
conclusion on this very important issue.
Your name has been suggested as someone with a valuable perspective
on this issue and I am writing now to ask you to participate in our research
As an important part of the report, the Center will listen carefully
to the key stakeholders (especially those members of the public who tend
to favor limited Internet access for minors and those who tend to favor
open access). Our purpose is to be sure each perspective is heard clearly
and reported accurately, to explore the solutions that might be acceptable
to each stakeholder group, to determine if there are any new ways of thinking
about the issue and its possible solutions, and to identify any areas
of common ground shared by the various positions on this issue. The Center
also seeks to develop recommendations about any next steps we can see
to move the issue toward resolution in the county. We will not recommend
"the solution" to the issue; ours will be primarily recommendations about
Based on community input, we have modified the research procedure previously
published in the newspapers. To better achieve our goals, I will be facilitating
two open "focused discussion" meetings at Santa Clara University, and
supplementing these with individual or small group conversations which
are not open to the public.
The first of these "focused discussions" (scheduled for September 22
from 7:30-9:30 p.m.) will provide me and other Center faculty and staff,
as well as others, with the opportunity to listen carefully to those who
tend to favor limited access. The second "focused discussion" (scheduled
for September 24 from 7:30-9:30) will allow us to listen carefully to
those who tend to favor open access.
The procedure for each meeting will be the same: a group of some forty
invited participants who hold that particular opinion will discuss the
opinion, solutions, and other matters in a public setting. Any other member
of the public who wishes to listen to the discussion is free to do so,
but time constraints will not allow their active participation in the
discussion. Periodically we will take questions in writing from those
in attendance and will incorporate questions into the discussion as time
These two meetings are not the place for public debate or disagreement.
Any person who attends the meetings and has an opposing viewpoint will
be welcome to express that view-point in writing after the meeting (either
by mail or email) or to speak with me or another Center faculty member
by phone or in person, as the limited time for this project allows.
We believe that you favor limited access for minors and are inviting
you to participate in the discussion. As I said earlier, your perspective
is particularly valuable to this project and I am hopeful that you will
be able to attend. The meeting for people in favor of limiting access
for minors is scheduled for Monday, September 22 from 7:30 - 9:30 p.m.
on the Santa Clara University campus. The meeting will be held in
the Benson Memorial Center Parlors B, C, D, and E, and parking
will be available in the Leavey Activities Center parking lot (off of
Stadium Way). A map with directions is enclosed.
If we are mistaken in your position on this issue, I'm happy to invite
you to the other scheduled meeting. (The meeting for people in favor of
open access for minors is scheduled for Wednesday, September 24 from 7:30
- 9:30 p.m. in the same location.)
I appreciate your consideration of this invitation. If you are able
to attend this meeting, please contact the Markkula Center and inform
them of your intent to attend and the night you will come, based on the
position which you take on this matter (i.e. in favor of limiting access
or in favor of open access). We can be reached by phone at (408) 554-5319
or by fax at (408) 554-2373. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thomas E. Shanks, S.J., Ph.D.
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