Filtering Day at my Library


Wow – it’s been quite the filtering day here at the library. I had a question directed to me about filtering… I ended up talking to a Missouri Probation and Parole Officer about what we filter and how websites that are filtered behave.
We discussed risque images, pop-up windows, and just what happens when a library customer clicks on a link. Sometimes, pop-up windows galore start appearing. If our filter is working, the webpages featured in the pop-up windows are filtered, too. Each website that pops up has to be included in our filter’s database. If it is in our “bad websites” database, then the customer would see our “access denied” page instead of the actual webpage. But what happens if one of the pages that appears isn’t filtered? Then you get some “access denied” pop-up pages, and some actual pop-up pages. That could look confusing. And if our filtering server crashes (it does that sometimes), everything appears.
So now library staff are discussing things like: should we train our security officers and our public services staff on what should be filtered and what should not be filtered? More specifically – we’re following Missouri’s definition of “Explicit sexual material” – for all practical purposes, it’s pretty specific. But there are LOTS of images that would A. fall outside of that definition; and would B. still pull the triggers of some library and security staff. How do you train for that? I’m seeing a sitcom situation: someone standing in front of a training room, displaying large images on a screen… “is porn” <click> “is not porn” <click> “is porn” <click> “is not porn” <click> etc.
Then there’s the whole “checking to see if this site should be filtered or not is part of my job” thing. Is that harrassment? Do you ask for volunteers? Do you warn others when you start a “check the unfiltering requests” session so as to not offend passers-by to your cubicle? And on and on and on…
And the CIPA people said this would be easy.