It's All in a Name -- Library Discovers the Perils of Filtering Software

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

When the director of the Piqua, Ohio, public library called his colleagues together to demonstrate the library's new public Web site, things did not go quite as planned. When he entered the new URL -- -- the library's computer refused access. Puzzled, he tried again and was denied again, before he realized the problem: The library's software filtered the site because the word "flesh" was included with the word "public."

The Flesh Public Library is named after local businessman Leo Flesh, who, in the 1940s, provided the donation necessary to purchase the Piqua Men's Club as the new home for the library.

"Growing up in Piqua, I don't think we give it much thought," said Director James Oda. "But when I was in the service, my mom -- who worked at the library at the time -- used to send care packages in these little plastic bags that said, 'Flesh Public Library.' There was a whole group of Army guys who had a lot of fun with that," he noted, as reported by the Associated Press.

Patrons can now access the library at its new URL,

Though the results in Piqua have a comical side, the issue of mandated filtering in public libraries is one of great concern to ALA and other organizations that have challenged the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in Federal court. The law seeks to require public libraries seeking government subsidies to install filtering software to block materials considered obscene, child pornography, or "harmful to minors."

In May, a panel of three judges of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania declared CIPA to be "facially invalid." At that time, ALA noted that "Americans cannot afford to lose access to the thousands of Web sites offering legal, useful, and valuable information blocked by … filters. Because filters overblock and underblock, they restrict speech and offer a false sense of security that children are protected when they are not."

However, the issue is still not settled. The government has appealed the ruling, and on November 12, the U.S. Supreme Court said that it would hear the case -- United States v. American Library Association.