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Library Working to Safeguard Info Materials

 

Susan Lathrop, Lamar Librarian, believed some clarity would help local residents understand the roles played by CLC, Colorado Library Consortium and EBSCO, an information source site used by students across the country and in the RE-2 School District in Lamar. The issue of access to pornographic materials by students was brought to light during the Lamar City Council meeting, April 23rd by a local group known as Heritage Defenders that referenced these two organizations.

Lathrop explained the safeguards and filters the library provides to students who use EBSCO as an information source for homework and other informational sources. “I believe the group is misguided in their thinking that EBSCO is a bad data base for us to use for student’s access,” Lathrop said, adding that it offers access to 175 million articles, derived from about 95,000 magazines and journals.  “Even though it is filtered and complies with the Federal Child Internet Protection Act, things are going to slip through now and then,” she explained.  Lathrop said EBSCO does offer protective tools, such as local control to the materials and they can be removed if there is an inappropriate site that has been accessed.  “I have the ability to take out an article or a magazine if it is not appropriate but that ability was not available when these issues first came to light.”

Lathrop said the city’s IT department makes sure that people cannot access inappropriate materials in the library, “That access has been specifically restricted and if there is a concern about something on a website, we take it seriously.” She said the library offers information on how parents can protect their children from these sites, but the only perfect way is to sit with your child and monitor what they’re reading from their computer and that is not always possible.  “It’s also not likely that a student will automatically go to an educational data base in order to access porn, we’re talking about a chance encounter with some of that material.”

Parents or someone can make a request for reconsideration if a parent has an objection to some material. “We can respond to it in about a week and it probably takes about 24 hours to remove an objectionable site.  What aids us in this, is a specific path that was taken to access the material.  It’s not as easy as you’d think, because in one instance we tried and couldn’t find what was being discussed, but when we were shown just what points were accessed, we understood then and took steps to bar it once we contacted EBSCO.”

It was brought out at the city council meeting that sometimes objectionable materials or specific advertisements might be moved around to another source once an objection has been made. Lathrop said EBSCO doesn’t flash ads to a reader, but that ad may be on multiple sites at one time, “It’s hard to fight American pop culture.” She said the articles can appear as a full text presentation, but it’s available through unfiltered Google at home, not in the library as that is already restricted from the public computers and can’t be accessed.  “Kids need to learn how to use these safeguards and the library offers tools to help parents protect their children, she stated.”

She said EBSCO is a means through which the library can save funds for educational materials. The CLC, Colorado Library Consortium is a non-profit, quasi-governmental organization supported by the state library and receives part of its funding from grants.  As a consortium, it has more buying power when libraries are grouped together than they would separately.  The CLC can negotiate lower prices for the libraries. They aren’t wholesalers, just a means for reduced costs when a larger number of libraries are involved through the state.  She said there are other data bases, but they are more costly and some have curators who will work with you n requests, but you don’t get the local control or oversight on materials as you do with EBSCO and you’re paying more money for less service.

Lathrop said she is grateful to the Heritage Defenders for alerting the library and advisory board about some of their concerns as it makes them more aware of the overall problem with inappropriate material and the need to be vigilant. She looks forward to working with them in the future.

She added, “The purpose here is to let people know their library is perfectly safe. We are not censoring people, what we’re doing is developing a collection for kids and want to make sure that it is safe, and so does this organization and we don’t want EBSCO, which is a good service to us, or CLC to be misjudged by their nature of service.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: City of LamarEducationFeaturedPublic SafetySchoolYouth

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