Are filters the best way to block access to porn?
To answer that question, you have to know how well the filtering software works at blocking unwanted sites, and also how the software's performance compares against other possible methods of controlling content, and the comparative costs of different methods. (There may be legal questions too, although my unthorough research indicates that filtering has fared pretty well in the courts.)
The costs to be gauged include dollars, but also the potential impact on two of the library's essential goals: providing access to information, and maintaining a safe, welcoming environment for the public.
One good question would seem to be this: What, exactly, do filters filter?
Earlier generations of filtering software were said to block information of a sort that many of us would regard as suitable and even desirable for library viewing. I'm told the software has improved to the point that some former opponents now accept the possibility of using it.
I'm curious about the amount of collateral damage to information flow, if any, caused by state-of-the-art filters.
If filters do limit access to content beyond straight-up porn sites, what other content would people be willing to sacrifice, if it meant effectively shutting off the flow of smut?
What do we see as too important, or too ubiquitous, to filter out, if such things are in fact hidden by filters? What is not filtered that might be almost as problematic as filtered content?
Technology is easy, culture is hard.
I see that all the time in a business context, and I've seen it as a parent and a school volunteer. Now we're seeing it at our public libraries.
I guess we should find out how these filters work, huh?