Posted by Lori Ayre on January 7, 2004

I've been asked for some low cost ideas for small libraries who can't afford to lose their E-Rate discounts and so are struggling with a reasonable way to filter the few computers at their library.

Bob Bocher suggested using Content Advisor as a way to filter staff computers though he didn't think this approach would pass muster for patron computers but I'm thinking it might....with a little help.

The deal with content advisor is that is relies on the content providers of the websites to rate themselves according to some rating service such as ICRA . Very few have signed on to the theory which means very few sites are rated.

This means that one important setting in Content Advisor is the one that says "allow all unrated sites" because otherwise, nothing is going to get through. But the good thing is that the sites that do get through, really shouldn't. And the content providers agree. FYI, I recommend ONLY blocking sexual content, Level 4, for CIPA.

And to beef it up a bit, use the other part of the Content Advisor, the Approved List to supplement the meager blocks you'll get with self-rated sites. But I recommend using the Approved List in the negative -- that is as a Block List. Classic Microsoft move to name it Approved List despite the fact that it can also be used as a Disapprove List.

Anyway, add some sites to the Disapprove List to give your Content Advisor a bit more bite. If the kids in the library find some sites you think should be blocked, those are the ones to put on the list. You don't have to have every horrible site known to man in there, you just need to prevent the problems in your library to keep everyone happy.

It's not the simplest solution nor is it the most thorough but it is cheap and you won't be overblocking. That's more than many folks can say.