March 26, 2002 11:00 pm

Parents who send their children to a public library should be confident that computers in the building do not have access to pornographic sites on the Internet.

Thats why the legal challenge by some library officials and free-speech advocates of the Childrens Internet Protection Act of 2000 is disturbing.

The plaintiffs are hoping to convince a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia that the filtering software mandated by CIPA is imperfect technology that could block access to legitimate information on health, sexuality and social issues.

Under CIPA, any library that receives federal technology funding must have a policy of Internet safety for minors that blocks online access to any depictions that are obscene, pornographic or harmful to young people.

That is a reasonable standard to apply to all public libraries, whether they are seeking federal money or not.

Most parents would agree that educational material related to health issues should be available to their children on a computer. The test that applies to a library itself whether content on the bookshelves is suitable for readers of various ages should also apply to computers. Printed pornographic materials cannot be found in a librarys collection; neither should they be available through a librarys computer system.

THE problems that the plaintiffs are raising over computer censorship are overblown. Filtering software has improved over the past two years. The new technology makes fewer mistakes and allows librarians to unblock sites that were blocked in error. Some of the federal money could go to libraries to provide this latest technology.

The Pennsylvania judges should not knock the wind out of the sails of a law that was designed to help young people have a wholesome, smut-free educational experience in a library, and give their parents some peace of mind.


Got some idea about making the community better like spurring improvements in a park, initiating a neighborhood cleanup project or developing a bike or jogging path?

Oregon SOLV, known for its skills in organizing people to clean up the states beaches or rivers, is bringing its volunteer-action training program to Northeast Oregon on April 4.

The one-day session at the Baker City Library will provide ideas for people who are thinking about organizing a community project but need some help in getting started. Those attending the session will learn the nuts and bolts of planning, organizing and getting volunteers involved in a project.

Check out the Web site, www.SOLV.org, or call 800-322-3326 by Monday to register. The training could be an important first step in getting a valuable community project under way.