There will soon be a change in the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District's policy regarding Internet use for youngsters.
At its Aug. 12 evening meeting, the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District Board of Trustees voted 4-3 to place filters on Internet sites at the district's libraries for those under the age of 13. Previously, all sites were unfiltered, but parents could request that filters be used when their children use the system.
"Currently, anyone -- regardless of age -- can sign up for filtered or unfiltered access, but parents can lock in filters for their children. The vote changes that policy," said Bruce Ziegman, executive director of the FVRLD.
The gist of the new policy, which is expected to take effect by the end of 2002, is this: Those 12 and under will automatically have a filter on when they use the Internet. Parents will have the right to lift that filter for their children. When youngsters reach the age of 13, the filter will be turned off. However, parents would continue to have the right to request that the filter be maintained for their kids.
For those between the ages of 13 and 17, the filter will be off. At 18, adult rules (no filtering) apply.
According to Ziegman, the discussion leading up to the vote lasted about an hour.
Ziegman said he believed the decision was a positive step, but noted that "it will be difficult to implement."
"It will require new Internet management software, and staff will have to build detailed policy and procedures," he explained.
Ziegman said the cost of the new software is in the range of $60,000-$70,000. However, he pointed out that the software will provide other benefits to the library besides solely Internet filtering.
Ziegman conceded that one problem that needs to be addressed is how library staff will determine the age of its patrons.
"That remains to be determined," he said. "Not many kids have an identification card at age 12. These are exactly the kind of details that have to be worked out."
Jennifer Hull, community librarian for the White Salmon Valley Community Library, said she was generally pleased with the decision.
"I think it was a good compromise," Hull said. "I'm glad it left options for parents and kids. But I'm a little worried that parents think the filters are perfect. They aren't. The undesirable sites are creative about how they foist themselves on people."
The Fort Vancouver Regional Library District covers virtually all of Klickitat, Skamania, and Clark counties, and has 12 branches, including the one in White Salmon.