Public libraries will have until July 2002 to certify that they have adopted internet filtering technologies required by a new federal law, under terms of an agreement reached in U.S. district court.

The agreement came during a hearing on the twin lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association challenging portions of the Children’s Internet Protection Act.

Under the law passed last year, libraries and schools would lose federal grants earmarked for technology unless they install computer filtering software that blocks access to online material deemed “obscene,” “harmful to minors,” or “child pornography.” Libraries were supposed to be in compliance by July 31, with certification by October.

The lawsuits challenge portions of the law that affect libraries, not schools. The suits contend the law violates freedom of speech.

The agreement reached May 15 with federal prosecutors requires libraries to indicate this year that they are evaluating their options, said Theresa A. Chmara, a lawyer for the library association. Schools will still have to begin complying by July 1 and certify their compliance with the law by October 27.