CIPA and San Francisco, California: Why We Don't Filter
Libraries in other cities and towns across the country are wrestling with the costs and implications of complying or not complying with CIPA. But in San Francisco, the decision has already been made—a city ordinance passed two years ago explicitly bans the filtering of Internet content on adult and teen public access computers.
City Librarian Susan Hildreth says that her library, which has received E-Rate funds since the program began in 1998, will be prohibited by local law from accepting them following the Supreme Court's CIPA ruling. In 2001, when the CIPA legislation first passed, City Supervisor Mark Leno (now a member of the California State Assembly) introduced a city ordinance banning the use of filters on any public access computer within the San Francisco city limits. Before its passage the bill was modified to limit the ban to computers accessible to teens and adults. In any case, with the Supreme Court's ruling the ordinance means that the San Francisco Public Library will no longer receive E-Rate funds or IMLS grants related to computer access. Hildreth estimates that the ordinance will cost the library around $225,000 per year in lost e-rate funds—about 5% of her total annual budget of $55 million.
Some of that loss will be offset—in a sense. The city has agreed to restore a $150,000 cut in the library's budget, making those funds available for the purchasing of Internet access services that would had been covered in the past by E-Rate funds.
Hildreth recognizes that her situation is highly unusual. But it does illustrate how each locality must evaluate and respond to CIPA based on its own standards and expectations: “We have a fairly unique community,” she says, “and our community doesn't want filtering.”
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