ALA's E-rate TF: questions for filter vendors

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jay currie writes "Over at the ALA they have posted five pages of questions a library (in PDF) should ask a filtering vendor. All good questions but a fundamental abdication of the ALA's obligation to act on behalf of its members. Asking questions is not the same as demanding answers or setting standards. Any filtering vendor can, and no doubt will, answer the suggested questions. But will the answers be truthful, complete and helpful? Will the ALA collect and co-relate the answers to save smaller libraries the hassle and cost of going through this process?

Libraries - big and small - are much better advised to skip the ALA's lame attempt to get a handle on CIPA and go to Lori Ayre's increasingly comprehensive filter information, pricing and features page."

Comments

I would call this the list of completely obvious questions to ask your vendor(s).

Remember, there are still thousands of libraries out there that are staffed and managed by people who are still struggling with tech basics. Not everyone has an MLS, or a particularly fresh MLS. Many systems lack funds for training and professional development. We were the recipients of a Gates grant--we got a bunch of new computers and a trainer. The trainer was stunned at how savvy we were. She was used to going into small community libraries where she literally had to spend time teaching library workers how to use a mouse, how to save documents in Word.... We're a pretty rarified bunch here on LISnews, believe it or not.

Also, some of the questions asked about something like a new automated system seem silly, except there are a heck of a lot of them. Vendors may still answer them "sure" or "complies" or "not applicable", so trust -- BUT VERIFY.

Which is one of the reasons the ALA should be doing much more than providing five pages of questions.

Why have all those thousands of libraries go through this process? What would make more sense is for the ALA to come up with a simple set of filtering standards, based on an intellectual freedom agenda, and then rank the competing products using those standards.

No endorsement of filtering would be implied; rather the ALA would be providding a vital service to its members.

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