Mayor Eddie A. Perez was justified in expressing his "deep concern" this week about recent reports of drug use and sexual activity by some people visiting the Hartford Public Library.
But that's not all. In a letter to the library's directors Wednesday, Mr. Perez brought up another troubling matter that could have grave budget consequences: the possibility that the library might have to forfeit hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants because it did not install anti-pornography filters on computers used by the public in time.
The city could not replace the money, the mayor warned. Already there's a gap of more than $1 million between what the library requested and the 2008-09 plan approved by the city.
In response to the mayor's letter, Chief Librarian Louise Blalock issued a statement saying the library is in compliance with the federal Children's Internet Protection Act, which requires Internet filters to protect minors who have access to public computers.
Yes, the library is in compliance now, but that's not the point.
The filters were not installed until this March — for the first time, according to the top city technology official. But the library has been receiving federal grants amounting to more than $700,000 since 2000 under rules that required the filters to be in place. To comply with the regulations, library applicants for grant money must simply check a box saying they have met conditions.
Why did the Hartford library wait until this March to install the filters? Did library officials defy the federal regulations by falsely stating Hartford was in compliance? That would be outrageous if so.
Ms. Blalock, her staff and the library board have done wonders for the Hartford Public Library system in many ways. But they've been woefully lax with regard to bad behavior by some library patrons and, apparently, in following these particular federal rules.
Ms. Blalock has some explaining to do.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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