Libraries have restrictions in place for computer use

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 22, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / May 22, 1999

LAPLACE – Computer access policy at the parish libraries varies, but more restrictions are on the way.

At the St. John the Baptist Library, director Randy DeSoto said rules forInternet access are “not really exclusionary” but certain common-sense rules apply.

Users can sign up for half-hour increments, with a one-hour limit per day.

The system has eight Internet terminals in LaPlace, two in Garyville, four in Reserve and one in Edgard.

Chat rooms and interactive gaming had been allowed on off-times but are being curtailed “because we have limited resources.” Children ages 12 andunder are banned from such uses.

DeSoto stressed the library’s Internet computers, most bought with Gates Grant money, “are here for research, not for entertainment.”There are no screening programs in place on the computers themselves, but DeSoto said the computers are placed near the front desk so they can be easily monitored by staff.

Anything which is printed off the Internet goes into a waiting list behind the front desk, allowing direct control over what is provided to children.

He did strongly urge parents to properly supervise their children’s Internet access at home. “We’re following the trend,” DeSoto said.At the St. Charles Parish Library, rules are a bit more restrictive.Chatrooms and interactiving gaming is already out and, with the computers near the front desk, what is on screen can be seen by staff.

“If we see something offensive, we can ask them to get it off,” said one staff member. Pornographic sites are immediately removed.In fact, porn sites are difficult to control at public-access computers such as those in libraries. Staffers say while there are freedom of speechconcerns, there is also a sensitivity to public taste and availability to children.

DeSoto, for example, said screening programs such as Net Nanny could block out anything with the word “breast” in it. While that may knock outmost porn sites, it would also block breast cancer sites, for example.

In St. James Parish, Internet access is perhaps the most restrictive. KayBergeron in Gramercy said access is allowed for half-hour stretches.

Children under age 14 must have a parent there to sign for them, and while chatroom access is allowed, interactive gaming is not.

“If we happen to see porn, we ask them to leave,” Bergeron said, speaking of children or adults.

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