ALA brings Chelton to the stand in near-final day of CIPA trial

Contacts: Larra Clark


ALA Archived News Release

Originally posted April 3, 2002

The American Library Association (ALA) presented its final witness yesterday in its legal challenge to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The morning began with the much-anticipated expert testimony of Benjamin Edelman, a computer expert and consultant who currently works for the Berkeman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., and concluded with the dynamic librarian expert Mary Kay Chelton.

“I am thrilled with how the case is proceeding,” said Judith Krug, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. “We have been very clear about two very important points: Filters don’t work, and librarians have a critical role in providing free access to the diverse materials our users want and need. CIPA threatens libraries’ ability to fulfill their missions and every American’s right to speech and the exchange of ideas.”

Edelman provided expert testimony about his research and documentation regarding blocking programs.
His research documents 6,777 sites blocked by at least one of the four most popular blocking programs. He testified to the fact that these blocking programs persistently block a significant portion of content on the Internet that does not meet the programs’ self-defined category definitions. Edelman’s testimony compounded earlier expert testimony from
Dr. Geoffry Nunberg and
Christopher Hunter.

Chelton, an associate professor of the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at Queens College/CUNY, testified to the purpose and function of libraries. Author of “Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults 3: The Nation’s Top Programs,” published by ALA Editions, Chelton shared her experiences from more than 20 years of service in public libraries. “Young adults are interested in many topics that make adults nervous — things like anorexia, sex and divorce, to name a few — but this is normal curiosity and the very reason librarians must provide excellent service for young adults.”

“The goal of collection development is to provide as much information as possible to meet the diverse interests of a community,” Krug said. “Mary Kay clearly showed the difference between the inclusive process of library selection of materials and the exclusive process of blocking technology. As a committed young adult librarian and advocate for youth services, Mary Kay’s voice is an important one in this debate — which will ultimately affect public access for youth and adults.”

Anne Lipow, a librarian and library consultant for more than 40 years, also took the stand yesterday. She reviewed certain Web sites Edelman found to be blocked and determined that they contain content of use or interest in a public library. She further testified about how the Internet has changed reference services and about the problems posed by CIPA’s requirement that library users request permission to access blocked sites for “bona fide research.”

CIPA and the Neighborhood Children’s Internet Protection Act (NCIPA) were signed into law December 21, 2000. CIPA mandates the use of blocking technology for public libraries that seek Universal Service discounts (E-rate) for Internet access, Internet service or internal connections, or that seek Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds to purchase computers for Internet access or to pay for Internet access. The ALA and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed lawsuits challenging the law in March 2001. The cases were combined and are being heard by a three-judge panel made up of two district and one appellate court judge. Edelman and Lipow testified on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) suit, and Chelton testified for the ALA.

The court is hearing final testimony today, and will hear closing arguments tomorrow. The judges will likely rule by early May so libraries will have time to prepare before E-rate and LSTA deadlines fall.

For more information and updates on CIPA and the legal challenge, please go to

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