San Antonio Central Library, courtesy of visitsanantonio.com
San Antonio Central Library, courtesy of visitsanantonio.com
Randy_Bear

Yesterday the San Antonio Public Library (SAPL) hosted a public hearing on the current Internet policy with regards to the potential of Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) compliance.

Currently, the library’s Internet usage policy, does not cover CIPA compliance. In doing so, SAPL is not eligible to receive millions of dollars in funding for a variety of services under the federal government’s Schools and Libraries (E-Rate) Program. It’s a change some in the community have been working for to allow the library these much-needed funds to help provide greater service, especially with regards to online services.

But it continues to be a struggle to change due to resistance from the Public Library Board of Trustees. So what exactly would happen if the filters were put in place?

To start with, CIPA states:

“The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors).”

Note that only images must be blocked, not textual content. This is a point many seem to disregard or overlook when looking at CIPA. Some people feel the right to block affords them the right to block anything, which it doesn’t.

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg
District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg is an advocate for this initiative and has been working with the SAPL board to understand more of the issues and need.

“I believe that the implementation of these measures is necessary to protect young public library patrons, and that achieving CIPA compliance is in the best interest of the citizens of San Antonio,” Nirenberg said in an article in the San Antonio Business Journal.

When I read objections to CIPA from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, I don’t really see a compelling reason against it. In fact, if EFF considers child pornography (one of the restrictions of CIPA) as “free speech,” I’m ready to go to the mat with them on this.

Granted, that’s a singular reference and unfair to some of their other arguments, such as the inaccuracy of some image filters. I would propose that we fix the filters instead of trashing the entire approach.

San Antonio Central Library, courtesy of visitsanantonio.com
San Antonio Central Library, courtesy of visitsanantonio.com

The positive aspect of providing the filters is that the library can provide new services and features previously unavailable or too expensive to offer, in a time where city budget cuts are the norm. While this is not the entire solution, it helps the library implement new technology for e-learning and collaboration previously unavailable.

Libraries today are changing in nature, becoming beds of innovation, rather than stacks of dusty books. When I look at a library, I see a trove of content regardless of medium, not a museum of collected artifacts. In fact, there’s an entire movement to transform libraries into new community spaces called “The Library as an Incubator” project.

I spoke yesterday in support of CIPA and hope you will please contact the library with your comments. Unfortunately, they aren’t taking online comments on a publicly accessible page, so send them to Ramiro Salazar, Library Director via SAPL’s contact form at mysapl.org.

Randy Bear is a 20-plus years  San Antonio resident, transplanted from Little Rock to join the ranks of USAA in Information Technology. Over the last two decades, he’s been involved in a variety of civic and political activities, including work with San Antonio Sports, KLRN, Keep San Antonio Beautiful, and Fiesta San Antonio. Randy’s political life took root when several friends from Arkansas pulled him into the first Clinton presidential campaign. Since then, he’s been active in politics and government, including a brief period serving on the staff of former City Councilman Reed Williams. 

This story has been republished, with permission, from Bear’s blog “Concerned Citizens” at www.concernedinsa.com.

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Randy Bear

Randy Bear is a 20-plus years San Antonio resident, transplanted from Little Rock to join the ranks of USAA in Information Technology. Over the last two decades, he’s been involved in a variety of civic...