Our goal was to provide useful information for the County Library System,
the Citizen's Advisory Council, and the Joint Powers Authority as they
attempt to reach a thoughtful resolution of this complex issue. We were
not asked to recommend a solution. As stated early in the report, one
of our goals was to develop recommendations about next steps that might
move the issue toward resolution in the county. What follows are primarily
recommendations about process, but we have also included some recommendations
designed to encourage reflection on the lessons we've learned from this
issue as we continue to attempt to form a civic community.
Apart from the public meetings which are already part of the CAC
and JPA's planned procedures, we do not recommend convening any additional
public deliberations with the goal of seeking common ground and a
compromise solution. We believe opposing sides have such fixed and
negative impressions of each other that the kind of openness required
for a productive debate is precluded.
The Library should ask for a legal opinion from the courts on this
matter. There is widespread misunderstanding on the applicable national
and local laws.
All things being equal, the final decision should favor as much as
possible those who have the greatest needs for information, especially
children whose socioeconomic status does not allow them to have a
computer or Internet access at home.
No matter what the decision, to the extent that it's feasible, County
libraries should develop alternatives to the Internet which are attractive
to young children yet still provide computer skills. (Gilroy Library
has installed a multimedia CD-ROM station with educational programs
especially designed for children.)
Whether the library has filters or not, all children should undergo
some education prior to their first use of the Web and during their
first months, if possible. The library should review with children
the rules for child-safety on the net as proposed in any number of
If the decision is to install currently available filtering software,
the library should acknowledge the legitimate concerns of the advocates
of open access and continue to seek alternative solutions that address
their concerns, while at the same time providing reasonable tools
to parents who wish to restrict their own children's Internet access.
If the decision is not to install currently available filtering software,
the Library should acknowledge that a legitimate concern has been
raised by the advocates of limited access and continue to seek alternative
solutions that address their concerns, while at the same time preserving
constitutional freedoms. For example, the County library system and
the JPA should monitor and test potential new and upcoming technological
solutions at reasonable and practical time intervals.
The library system should address the widespread public misunderstanding
of the role of the library and its librarians. This may take a variety
of forms, from public discussions of the evolving role of the library
and the way it serves the community to broader education efforts or
public service advertisements.
This will not be the first nor will it be the last controversy our
communities will face. We encourage all parties in this dispute to
ask what, if anything, each person or institution could have done
differently to discover shared values and advance the common good.
The community became more divided as a result of this issue and will
need some time to heal. The Ethics Center would be willing to continue
to serve as a neutral location for such efforts.
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