The New York Civil Liberties Union's Genesee Valley Chapter today stood in strong support of the Central Library of Rochester in resisting efforts by the Monroe County Executive to infringe on the First Amendment-protected rights of adult library patrons by denying them full access to lawful internet material.
The NYCLU's statement came in response to County Executive Maggie Brooks's threat to withhold millions of dollars in crucial funding from the Central Library of Rochester unless the library completely blocks adults' access to potentially explicit or offensive internet material on its computers.
"The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that adults have the constitutionally protected right to access any lawful material they choose on the internet -- even graphic images," Barbara de Leeuw, NYCLU Genesee Valley chapter director, said. "The library should stand firm against such threats and be confident that its policies and procedures both protect individual liberties and keep children safe."
The library has many systems in place to protect children. Each of the library's eighty-four computers has an internet filter that a librarian can unlock for any adult patron who shows identification and agrees to use the unblocked computer only through a privacy screen that blocks passing children's view. Computers are immediately re-blocked at the end of a session for which they have been unblocked.
Children younger than sixth grade can only access computers in the supervised Children's Center. Students in middle and high school can only access computers on the main floor; these computers are never unblocked.
These thoughtful restrictions do not trample upon the First Amendment Rights of adults, De Leeuw said, and concerns about inappropriate access to graphic material could quickly and effectively be resolved by increased staffing to more effectively monitor the policies and protections already in place.