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BOOKBYTES

VOLUME 1, ISSUE 4

DIRECTOR'S DESK

SARAH MCMASTER

Librarians were generally not very controversial and the media mostly ignored us...until we began offering public access to the Internet.  Now, according to some commentators, we are "lewd" and purveyors of cyberporn.  Librarians are usually thought of as old maids with severe hairdos and sensible shoes, so this new characterization is a bit disconcerting for us.  I want to reassure you that your library staff is working very hard to make certain that Internet use at the library maintains community standards.

The Fairfield County Library has been offering public access to the Internet since the fall of 1998.  During that time we have had only a handful of serious violations of our policy that states clearly: "users may not display or send obscene (as defined by S.C. Code 16-15-305) images, messages, or files."  Patrons who violate the policy are asked to leave the inappropriate website and repeated violations result in loss of computer privileges.

The library has not installed Internet filtering software.  Filtering software either blocks whole websites or uses key word filters that trigger site blocking.  In either method, access to valuable information may be lost.  (Example:  using "breast" as a key word would block access to breast cancer sites.)  Filtering technology is not perfect, is time-consuming and complicated to
administer and  maintain, and raises some troubling First Amendment issues.  For these reasons the Fairfield County Library Commission has chosen to offer unfiltered access to the Internet.

Instead of filtering, we have a strong policy statement which can be viewed on our website (www.fairfield.lib.sc.us) and which is posted next to each Internet workstation.  When patrons click on the Internet icon at a workstation, a simple policy statement appears.  Patrons must read and agree to follow the policy before accessing the Internet.  Finally, the staff monitors the workstations and tries to make sure all patrons are following the rules.

Legislation has been introduced in the South Carolina General Assembly that would require Internet filtering in all public libraries.  There is filtering legislation pending at the federal level as well.  Our position is that the decision whether to filter should be made locally, by local library board members.  In the one South Carolina county where pornography at the library became an issue, the library director resigned under pressure and the county council appointed several new board members.  Local control really does work. 

As always, feel free to reach me at the library by phone (6354971), by fax (635-7715), or by email (sarah@fairfield.lib.sc.us).
Premiering in Print
The Fairfield County Historical Society has sponsored a reprinted edition of the Fairfield Sketchbook by Julian Bolick.  The books were produced by the Reprint Company in Spartanburg, SC.  Copies are available at the Fairfield County Museum for $50.00 each. Stack of books. Shipping is $5.00 extra per book.  Quantities are limited, so get yours soon.

Copies of
A Pictorial History of Fairfield County by Crosby Rice are still available at the Chamber of Commerce and sell for $35.00 each.

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