The North Shore News (Vancouver)
Monday, September 22, 1997

West Vancouver library grapples with Internet issue

by Catherine Barr, cbarr@unixg.ubc.ca

Censorship or sensibility? Should West Vancouver's memorial library control the flow of information from the Internet?

"I've never seen a pornographic movie before, but I feel I have now", said Arline Phillips.

The West Vancouver resident says she was shocked to see a young man using the library's computer equipment to access sexually explicit material. Chief librarian Ann Goodhart is aware that the problem exists.

"The Internet", she said, "is causing interesting new challenges for libraries."

The library's mission is, "to bring the world's information, ideas, and culture to the entire community". It also claims to be, "not responsible for the accuracy, timeliness, or appropriateness of the material available through the Internet."

Goodhart says that due to the Internet's ability to secure access to such a broad range of information, it has become a case of taking the good with the bad.

"It brings in things we never would've selected," she said.

The three Internet workstations in the library's adult areas do not have content restrictions. However, the library has installed a software filter on the workstation located in the youth department. It will restrict access to certain sites based on a pre-selected list of words and phrases.

Goodhart says that even this measure is not foolproof. She says the filter will still not catch everything. It can restrict access to useful information. "The filter can screen out institutions like Middlesex College or places like Sussex", she said.

She also says the library is playing a game of catch-up when it comes to the kids. "One kid actually deleted the filter. We were running around trying to put it back on."

Calling the Internet "a phenomenal resource", Goodhart supports its use. "We're trying to be responsible, but it's certainly not responsible to not offer the Internet."

The library says anyone found accessing illegal Internet material will be asked to stop immediately.

Copyright © 1997 by The North Shore News. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.