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Iowa Bill Ties Funding to Filtering Pornography

A bill introduced January 30 in the Iowa Senate would withhold state funding to public libraries unless they “eliminate access to pornography on the public library’s computer equipment.” If enacted, Senate File 2108 would also require state-funded public libraries to prohibit patrons younger than 17 from borrowing R-rated films.

“There’s no doubt this is a problem going on in our public libraries,” Sen. Jeff Angelo (R-Creston), one of three lawmakers sponsoring the bill, said in the February 1 Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier. Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), who is interested in keeping mature-themed movies from minors, said that during his tenure as mayor of Urbandale parents of an 11-year-old had complained to him about their child borrowing an R-rated movie from the city library. “It’s wrong that our libraries don’t live by the same rules as our theaters,” Zaun told the Courier.

“This needs to be a local issue,” disagreed Carol French Johnson, who directs both the Cedar Falls and the Waterloo public libraries. She told the newspaper that public workstations at both libraries are angled so that “what is on your screen is very visible to our staff and everybody who walks through. If we have any problems with you, you’re out.”

Johnson also pointed out her libraries’ shared bibliographic database, which resides on a server at the University of Northern Iowa, is particularly vulnerable to overblocking. “In essence, we would have to find our own automated system, which would cost the taxpayers an awful lot of money.”

Coincidentally, the legislation threatening state support was introduced just as the Iowa Library Association expressed thanks to Gov. Tom Vilsack for recommending a $315,000 hike for the Enrich Iowa program, which boosts interlibrary cooperation.

Posted February 3, 2006.