Library Board approves porn-blocking software under duress

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May 31, 2004 // UPDATED 1:48 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Michael Metzger
Michael Metzger

At its May 19 meeting, the Minneapolis Public Library Board reluctantly decided to purchase software to filter the Internet for patrons at its 15 libraries, including Downtown's Interim Central Library, 250 Marquette Ave.

The library trustees expressed disdain and distrust of the software designed to filter out pornographic Web sites. Critics of the software say it's prone to two kinds of failure: blocking nonpornographic sites and letting some porno sites through.

Library Director Kit Hadley said senior staff unenthusiastically recommended the software because the software is now mandated by the Bush administration for libraries seeking federal grants.

"This borders on feeling like extortion," Hadley said.

Library Board President Gregory Gray went one step further. "Is this extortion?" he asked. "Yeah, it is."

Nevertheless, he said, "We need as much money as we can lay our hands on right now."

Hadley said the library is seeking about $150,000 in federal funding. The system's current budget is nearly $19 million. Minneapolis libraries received about $93,000 in grants last year from the federal government, Hadley said.

The city's libraries face a continuing cash crunch after the Minnesota Legislature cut its share of Local Government Aid by approximately $2.8 million.

The Internet-filtering software will cost the library system about $10,000 to $15,000, plus another $5,000 for a dedicated server and approximately $12,000 annually for maintenance and software subscription fees.

The Library Board would buy the software for one year only. Members said after a year, they would weigh the software's benefits -- including access to federal grants -- against patron complaints.

Patrons 17 years and older will be able to have the filtering turned off by making a request to the librarian.

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The board also voted to retain Hadley as the library system's director. Gray said though the Board was required to increase Hadley's pay, the director decided to forgo an increase in pay for the next year.