Library Commission Minutes - February 15, 2001
Minutes of the special meeting of Thursday, February 15, 2001 (As approved April 3, 2001)
The San Francisco Public Library Commission held a special meeting on Thursday, February 15, 2001 in the Koret Auditorium, Main Library.
President Higueras called the meeting to order at 4:08 PM
The following members were noted present: Bautista, Higueras, Steiman, and Swig.
The Secretary reported that Commissioners Coulter and Streets were excused attendance.
Commissioner Chin joined the meeting at 4:13 PM
AGENDA ITEM #1 - INTERNET AND INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM PRESENTATION
Acting City Librarian Susan Hildreth provided the Commissioners with a detailed presentation concerning the potential fiscal and policy implications for the Library of the recently adopted federal Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Ms. Hildreth informed the Commissioners concerning lawsuits to be filed by the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to block implementation of this mandatory internet filtering law. The Acting City Librarian reported that while federal rulemaking pursuant to this law was ongoing, the Library would not be required to certify that its computers were in compliance until sometime in the Fall. She further noted that even this date could be pushed further back if the federal courts granted injunctions to be sought by the ALA and the ACLU against enforcement of the law pending resolution of legal challenges. The Acting City Librarian then introduced Ms. Mary Minow, who had previously presented six workshops for library staff on these issues.
Ms. Minow, a library consultant, former Librarian, Vice President of CALTAC, writer, and Adjunct Professor of Library Law at San Jose State University presented the Commission with an extensive overview of the issues raised by this legislation and other efforts to limit access to information available on the Internet to Library patrons both children and adults. She stated that it was her belief that it was practically impossible to effectively screen all objectionable material on the Internet. Ms. Minow next gave an overview of the legal history of this controversy and highlighted the legal issues involved. She explained how various Internet filtering systems were designed to work as well as how these designs significantly failed to appropriately distinguish between objectionable and non-objectionable sites on the Internet. Ms. Minow then discussed various other legal cases such as the Loudon County, Virginia Public Library case and a case involving the Livermore Public Library which impacted this issue. Ms. Minow concluded that the majority of speech was constitutionally protected, that the technology did not exist to only filter objectionable materials, and that in the final analysis judgement concerning what was objectionable was very subjective and there were no commonly accepted standards.
Public comment on Agenda Item #1 - INTERNET AND INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM PRESENTATION
An anonymous member of the public was glad to hear a serious discussion of this important topic, noting that it was of crucial concern to define what is illegal while upholding the fundamental 1st Amendment principle of a lack of prior restraint of speech. The anonymous member of the public also discussed the significant issue that the Internet can distribute material widely that may be legal in some places and illegal in others citing a case involving the French government attempting to block access to what it found to be objectionable web sites. This individual noted that this issue was of great concern to the library profession and should be taken very seriously. Mr. Peter Warfield noted that he was glad to hear this discussion on a big and difficult topic. Mr. Warfield discussed another approach which he had heard of that a library could pre-select the sites to be available in the same manner materials are included in the catalog. Mr. Warfield commented that he had concerns that the Library's existing Internet Policy could lead to excessive monitoring of patron use of the Internet by library staff.
Commission comment on Agenda Item #1- INTERNET AND INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM PRESENTATION
Vice President Steiman noted that the Library's Children's' Center did pre-select the sites which are prompted to those computers. She additionally discussed the many complexities and potentially great value of having unrestricted access to information on the Internet for all patrons. President Higueras noted that there were other effective ways in which the goals of this legislation intended to protect children could and were being met. He additionally noted that when the bond program renovation work is being done, that the placement of public access computers would be carefully considered to discourage misuse of Library Internet resources. Commissioner Chin observed that kids frequently know more about computers than their parents and that it is a task for schools and the Library to educate children about the Internet. Commissioner Chin noted that schools get signed waiver releases against any misuse of their computers. President Higueras pointed out that it is a responsibility of parents to guide their children's use of computers. Vice President Steiman noted that the same censorship issues existed for books and that it should never be the Library's role to censor. In response to questions by President Higueras, Ms. Minow reiterated that it was effectively impossible given current technology to only filter objectionable sites. The Acting City Librarian reported that there was no immediate need for the Commission to take action on this matter and that staff would monitor developments and keep the Commissioners up to date as the situation with this law developed. Ms. Toni Bernardi, Chief of Children and Youth Services, presented the Commissioners with a detailed overview of how the Library was currently managing this situation. She specifically noted that there had not been any problems with misuse of Library computers.
AGENDA ITEM #2 - CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES PLAN REPORT
Ms. Deborah Alvarez, Director of the Department of Children, Youth, and their Families gave a detailed presentation to the Commission on the 2000-2002 Children and Youth Services Plan. Ms. Alvarez reported that this plan, approved by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, included an important role for the Library in meeting vital needs of San Francisco's children and their families. Ms. Alvarez discussed how the plan had been developed, and what progress had been made in achieving the goals set out in the plan. She mentioned the creation of the Children's Web Portal, how the $24 million Children's fund would be used to maximize services, and how changing demographics challenged the ways that services are distributed to children and youth across the city. Ms. Alvarez mention the creation of the Children's Cabinet to pull together the many government entities working with children to better identify goals and set priorities to address real needs. Ms. Alvarez described ongoing strategic planning efforts, including use of targeted focus groups to gather needed information to guide effective planning. She noted that the problem was not only access to the wide array of information available from many sources, but also meeting with and sharing with parents about their family's needs. Ms. Alvarez emphasized that her Department wanted to find ways to bring all City Departments together to maximize the delivery of services to children and youth. Ms. Alvarez stated that it was a major responsibility to effectively gather information, conduct careful analysis of it, and plan for the future to effectively meet the needs identified.
Public comment on Agenda Item #2 - CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES PLAN REPORT
An anonymous member of the public commented on the thoughtfulness of the statement presented, but questioned what would be discovered if the details were examined as closely as this individual does Library related matters. The anonymous member of the public noted the importance of looking at the outcome to confirm if the funds expended are actually working to benefit children. This individual noted that youth are at risk, cited a reference to them as human capital, and commented that it was a widely held view that young people need training to be able to effectively participate society. The anonymous member of the public did not see such training being provided and noted that there must be accountability, including accountability by the Library Commission for its part in this effort.
Commission Comment on Agenda item #2 - CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES PLAN REPORT
President Higueras noted the Library's very active role in and support of Department of Children, Youth, and their Families' activities. He emphasized that the Library Commission was strongly committed to creating a hospitable environment for youth, in particular teenagers, as a key planning element in the branch library bond program. Commissioner Bautista pointed out that another underserved group was seniors and that the Library should maximize its efforts to match seniors and youth. She noted that children needed greater interpersonal contact with their elders. In response to questions by Commissioner Chin there was a discussion of how to identify what programs work effectively and how to continue to monitor and measure their success. Ms. Alvarez discussed in some detail how her Department monitored the effectiveness of the programming of the agencies it funded and noted that each program was evaluated at four levels with specific benchmarks identifying outcome goals being set. Ms. Alvarez reported that her Department has undertaken a major re-evaluation of the entire scope of city funded children and youth programs which had resulted in an even closer look at 48 priority youth service program to see if their services produced expected results. In response to a question by Commissioner Bautista, Ms. Alvarez observed that the Youth Commission had played a very active role in this review and had made very useful contributions in identifying how some services could be better provided. Commissioner Chin called attention to the special needs of "latch key" kids and urged more after school activities be funded to meet their needs. Responding to a comment by Commissioner Chin, Ms. Alvarez called attention to the important role that the 8 "Beacon School" programs were taking to address the social, physical, and intellectual needs of children, teenagers, and their families. Commissioner Bautista noted that children and youth needed more arts and music programs to develop their talents and that the city should fund weekend youth music programs in the parks.
AGENDA ITEM #3 - TOOL LENDING CENTER UPDATE
Ms. Amanda Thomas of the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG), the Program Manager for the Tool Lending Center gave the Commission a update report on the Tool Lending Center since its opening on January 4, 2001. Ms. Thomas reported that 80 people had attending the Grand Opening festivities that were extensively covered in the local electronic and print media. She informed the Commissioners that the Tool Center had 175 registered patrons, mostly from District 10 the center's near neighborhoods, and that 445 tools had been circulated with any problems. Ms. Thomas called attention to the fact that power tools were the most commonly borrowed items but that demolition hammers, sanders, saws, drills, carpentry tools, and gardening tools, including water hoses, were also popular. Ms. Thomas reported that gardening tools had been borrowed for a school gardening class. The Tool Center Manager praised the expertise of her crew of tool experts that had given useful advice and guidance to patrons with questions about the proper tool for and use on particular jobs. Ms. Thomas reported receiving inquiries from Palo Alto and San Jose concerning the possibility that those cities might create their own tool lending programs. The Acting City Librarian then presented an extensive group of video clips from the local television news coverage of the Tool Lending Center's January 4th opening.
Public comment on Agenda Item #3 - TOOL LENDING CENTER UPDATE
Mr. Ed Regan strongly supported the Tool Center but thought the concept premature. Mr. Regan inquired and was informed that the Tool Center accepted gifts of new tools. An anonymous member of the public found the presentation heartwarming, but expressed concern that patrons be instructed in safe use of tools, and had other concerns about liability risks inherent in having people use dangerous power tools. The anonymous member of the public also requested that in the future written reports on the Tool Center be made available to the public.
Commission comment on Agenda Item#3 - TOOL LENDING CENTER UPDATE
Commissioner Swig noted that while this program seemed to meet a need in the community, she expressed serious reservations about how the Tool Lending Center fit into the primary mission of the Library and expressed continuing concern with the long-term liability risks inherent in the program. In response to Commissioner Swig's concerns Ms. Thomas explained the step by step safety instructions, both verbal and in writing, that is included when each tool is borrowed. Ms. Thomas also described the indemnification form, approved by the City Attorney's Office, which borrowers are required to sign before receiving tools. In response to questions by Commissioners Bautista and Steiman, the Acting City Librarian explained that why the decision was made that Tool Center borrowers did not need to have a library card to borrow tools. She further described the options available for access to library materials for Tool Center patrons at the nearby Portola Branch Library. Responding to questions by Commissioner Bautista, Ms. Thomas explained that no deposit was required to borrow tools and that there had been no problems. In response to a question by Commissioner Swig, Ms. Thomas described the kinds of phone advice that the Tool Center had been providing. Ms. Thomas informed the Commissioners that the Tool Center planned to begin a series of tool use and safety classes available to patrons. Responding to a question by Commission Chin, Ms. Thomas described late tool fines as $1 to $2per day for small hand tools and up to $5 to $15 dollars per day for larger power tools. In answer to a question by Commissioner Bautista, Ms. Thomas explained how damaged tools were repaired. The Acting City Librarian also called the Commissioners' attention to the efforts of SLUG Executive Director Ms. Cory Colandra in making this project a success.
AGENDA ITEM #4 - PUBLIC COMMENT
Mr. Ed Regan called for creation of a teen room in every branch library. Mr. Peter Warfield thanked Commissioner Swig for her observation that the Tool Lending Center was outside of the scope of the Library's Mission Statement, and urged that it be reviewed. Mr. Warfield expressed appreciation to the Acting City Librarian and the Commission for presenting the discussion on the Internet and intellectual freedom, observing that it was a complex and difficult issue to take on. An anonymous member of the public commented generally on issues involved in intellectual freedom. The anonymous member of the public found this to be a very serious issue. This person noted surprising results from Internet word searches and the difficulties with filtering software. The anonymous member of the public recalled previous controversies at the Library involving NAMBLA, questions of witch-hunts, and concerns about how to respond to "hate speech". This individual thought this a challenging 1st Amendment issue, noting that the Internet brings what has been underground to wider public notice. Ms. Deborah Doyle, Friends and Foundation, called the Commission's attention to the abrupt elimination of a well used Muni bus stop for the #19 Polk Street Line at the Larkin Street entrance of the Main Library. Ms. Doyle urged the Commissioners to make Muni administration aware of the serious negative impact eliminating this stop has on many elderly and disabled library patrons.
Agenda Item #5 - ADJOURNMENT
MOTION: by Commissioner Bautista, seconded by Vice President Steiman that the meeting be adjourned.
Public comment on Agenda Item #5 ADJOURNMENT
ACTION: AYE 5-0 (Bautista, Chin, Higueras, Steiman, and Swig)
The meeting was adjourned at 5:59PM
Michael Housh, Commission Secretary 4/4/01
The number of members of the public who spoke anonymously at this meeting 1.
Please note: Copies of Commission Minutes and handouts are available in the Office of the Commission Secretary, 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102