Spokane’s Public Library is going ahead with access to the Internet, but will require cyberspace travelers to take a course and remind them to avoid offensive material.
The library also will install software that blocks some computer files containing sexually explicit photos, videos or discussions.
Those steps are among several the library board will adopt later this month.
The library is adding Internet access at a time of growing national concern over the material available on-line.
The U.S. Senate last week voted to outlaw posting obscene material on on-line services or sending such material to minors across electronic networks, including the worldwide network called the Internet.
Library officials plan to install 10 computers with Internet access next month at the downtown branch. Several more are planned in other branches.
Users who violate the Internet rules could lose their library cards.
Library Executive Director Dan Walters said the vast majority of on-line information is useful - from federal and state government documents to archives of research universities and art galleries on every continent.
Internet interest has been high in Spokane since the library introduced a telephone service giving computer users access to its collection.
But library patrons will face several restrictions.
Users must take a training session. Children also must have parents sign a statement authorizing Internet use.
Users won’t be able to download files and no one will be able to print documents unless approved by library staff.
Library users also won’t be able to send electronic mail, though Walters said that option may be available later.
City Councilman Joel Crosby, the City Council’s library liaison, said he supports the policies, which must be formally adopted at the next library board meeting.
“I applaud the board and Dan Walters for moving aggressively to give library users access to the Internet,” Crosby said.
Walters said the program that screens out offensive material cannot guarantee library users won’t find X-rated pictures or messages.
The program must be told which sources of information to screen out.
“Considering the scope of the problem and how often such sources change, I have to admit that such safeguards cannot be entirely successful,” he said.
About $40,000 is being spent on the computers. The machines will rely on the library’s computer network, financed with $1.5 million from a bond measure approved by voters.
No extra staff will be added.
“Really for us, the big issue is how to bring this up without adding much stress and additional work for our staff,” Walters said.
Even with the new policies, the library has no plans to monitor how the Internet is used.
“None of our staff will walk around and view what’s on people’s computer screens,” he said. “That’s a contradiction of what a library is all about.” , DataTimes MEMO: Staff writer Tom Sowa writes about technology for The Spokesman-Review. His E-mail address is Toms@Spokesman.com.