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Libraries and the Internet Toolkit

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What You Can Do

Librarians can take many proactive measures to address concerns about children's Internet access. Be strategic. Be creative. Most of all, be prepared.

  • Make sure your community is as knowledgeable about the Internet as possible. Instruct your staff, your library board and Friends about how the Internet works and what it offers. Encourage parents and children to take advantage of the wealth of information available online.
  • Establish time limits on the use of computers, if necessary. Regardless of the method you choose — a sign-in sheet, an honor system or advance registration—always keep in mind the privacy of your users. You also may wish to create a daily limit for those users who like to "hop on and off" the computer. This reduces a potential monopoly by a handful of users.
  • Establish a procedure for quickly destroying your sign-up sheets.
  • Link children's computers to preselected, recommended Web sites such as ALA's Great Web Sites for Kids.
  • Preset selected computers to search engines designed especially for children, such as KidsClick! (http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/KidsClick!) or Yahooligans! (http://www.yahooligans.com/).
  • Provide copies of ALA's The Librarian's Guide to Great Web Sites for Kids (formerly titled The Librarian's Guide to Cyberspace for Parents & Kids; telephone: 800-545-2433. ext. 5044/5041 or e-mail pio@ala.org for more information) or other brochures with tips and resources to help parents guide their children's Internet use.
  • Offer Internet classes for parents, children and others that focus on different aspects of the Internet, such as search engines, Internet safety or what makes a great Web site. Or put your classes online so the public has access to the material at its convenience. Make sure the classes include information about your Internet use policy, time limits on the computer and other pertinent instructions. Provide handouts.
  • Recruit volunteers to teach Internet classes and assist users at their computer workstations. Make sure these volunteers are trained on your library's Internet use policy, privacy policy, and state and local confidentiality statutes.
  • Create special displays of books and materials related to the Internet. Include information specifically geared for parents and children. Prepare a list of Internet-related resources (books, magazines, videos, reference materials, Web sites) that people can take home with them.
  • Encourage your users — including children — to recommend sites to your staff. You can ask them to vote on their favorite Web sites and print their top choices on flyers or bookmarks and distribute them.
  • Include Internet resources in library displays. For example, highlight information available online in your display for Black History Month, Women's History Month, Banned Books Week, or your summer reading program.
  • Consult "Checklist & Ideas for Library Staff Working with Community Leaders" at http://www.ala.org/oif/challengesupport/dealing/checklist for a useful checklist of ideas for working with community residents.
  • Develop Web sites for children and young adults that link to material especially recommended for them.
  • Teach children how to use the Internet and to be critical users of information.
  • Provide opportunities for parents and children to learn together. (For example, see "Additional ALA Web Sites for Parents, Children, and Librarians" found at http://www.ala.org/oif/youngpeople/youngpeople.
  • Inform parents of strategies they can use with their children regarding Internet use, such as informing them about the "rules of the road." A variety of rules for different age groups can be found at ALA's "Especially for Children and Their Parents" (http://www.ala.org/oif/youngpeople/children). Another strategy parents can use is writing a contract together with their children on appropriate Internet conduct. For an example of this, see GetNetWise's "Make an Internet Use Agreement with Your Child" (http://www.getnetwise.org/tools/toolscontracts.php).
  • Use privacy screens or position terminals to prevent inadvertent or accidental viewing.

Librarians across the country have taken steps to ensure that members of their communities have positive, safe experiences on the Internet. For a list of real life examples of how librarians successfully use the Internet every day, see Best Practices: How Librarians Are Managing the Internet at http://www.ala.org/oif/iftoolkits/bestpractices.



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This document was last updated December 1, 2003


Links to non-ALA sites have been provided because these sites may have information of interest. Neither the American Library Association nor the Office for Intellectual Freedom necessarily endorses the views expressed or the facts presented on these sites; and furthermore, ALA and OIF do not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available on these sites.


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