Library Board approves porn-blocking software under duress

At its May 19 meeting, the Minneapolis Public Library Board reluctantly decided to purchase software to filter the Internet for patrons at its 15 community libraries.

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.

Library Board President Gregory Gray said, "Is this extortion? Yeah, it is."

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

Hadley said the library currently seeks 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 about $10,000 to $15,000 to purchase, 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 -- 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.