Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Appendix 6
Invitation to Focused Discussion

September 19, 1997

Dear Sir/Madam,

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 efforts.

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 process.

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 allows.

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.
Executive Director

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