Guidelines and Considerations for Developing a Public Library Internet Use Policy
Internet Use Policies
- Disclaimer—It is very important for users to know that the library is not responsible for Internet content.
- Introduction—Provide reasons for the policy and explain what the policy covers.
- Ensure that the policy speaks to access for all.
- Affirm the importance of respect for the privacy and sensibilities of other users.
- Keep it simple and avoid jargon. Making the policy too technical will confuse people.
- Separate policies from procedures. Policies do not change frequently; procedures change.
- Involve your library staff, board and friends group in the policy-writing process.
- Make policies readily available and visible to the public.
- Pay attention to the legal protection provided by copyright and by licenses for programs and data.
- Include a statement addressing patron privacy.
- Communicate clearly that users are responsible for what they access online; parents are responsible for their children's Internet use.
- Update your policy regularly. Be sure it reflects the Supreme Court CIPA decision.
- Include consideration for the integrity of computing systems.
- Indicate that individuals are responsible for using the library's computers and the Internet in a courteous and ethical manner.
- Advise users to log in/authenticate into the Library's network or to any other computer system following proper Internet use guidelines.
- Advise users to be conscious of copyright, software license agreements and Internet use laws.
- Advise users to follow federal, state or local laws on the use of Internet.
- Advise users to use the library's software and hardware appropriately.
- Sets forth reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions;
- Expressly prohibits any use of library equipment to access material that is obscene or child pornography; and in the case of minors, “harmful to minors” materials, consistent with any applicable state or local law (for additional information, see “Legal Section” of the toolkit);
- Provides for the privacy of users with respect to public terminals;
- Protects the confidentiality of records, electronic or otherwise, that identify individual users and link them to search strategies, sites accessed, or other specific data about the information they retrieved or sought to retrieve; and
- Informs users if filters are being used.
- Communicate the relevant policies for use of Internet-access computers to all library users, and include the parents of children who may use the library without direct parental supervision.
- Post notices at all Internet-access computers informing users that “utilizing library equipment to access illegal materials as specified in the Internet use policy is prohibited.”
- Offer a variety of programs (at convenient times) to educate library users, including parents and children, on the use of the Internet, and publicize these programs widely.
- Create a list of recommended Internet sites for library users in general. In the case of youth and children, according to age group, offer direct links to sites with educational and other types of material best suited to their typical needs and interests. For additional information, see “Children 10 Years of Age and Under” and “Teens 11-17 Years of Age” sections under “Safety & Responsibility” in this toolkit.
- The privacy of library users is and must be inviolable. Policies should be in place that maintain confidentiality of library borrowing records and of other information relating to personal use of library information and services.
- Licensing agreements should be consistent with the Library Bill of Rights, and should maximize access.
- Open and unfiltered access to the Internet should be conveniently available to the academic community. Content-filtering devices and content-based restrictions are a contradiction of the academic library mission to further research and learning through exposure to the broadest possible range of ideas and information. Such restrictions are a fundamental violation of intellectual freedom in academic libraries.
- Policies and procedures should be in place that mandate harassment-free and safe learning environments for all users.
- Illegal Internet activity such as viewing child pornography should not be allowed.
- Educate parents about their children's use of the Internet;
- Educate students about:
-Risks peculiar to computer communication;
-Rules for efficient, ethical, legal computer/network use;
-Safe and appropriate computer social behavior;
-Use of available and unavailable services;
- Preserve digital materials created by students and teachers;
- Protect vulnerable children from inappropriate approaches;
- Discourage children from making inappropriate personal disclosures;
- Encourage ethical behavior, and discourage criminal behavior;
- Encourage accepted Netiquette from the very start;
- Encourage polite and civil communication;
- Encourage individual integrity and honesty;
- Encourage respect for others and their private property;
- Allow enforcement of necessary rules of behavior;
- Protect the school networking equipment and software from danger;
- Help improve network efficiency by influencing resource usage;
- Share responsibility for the risks of using the Internet;
- Reduce the risk of lawsuits against teachers, schools, and providers;
- Simplify life for computer systems administrators;
- Discourage copyright infringement, software piracy, and plagiarism;
- Discourage network game playing and/or anonymous messages;
- Discourage use of computers and networks for profit or politics; and
- Inform Internet users that their online activities are monitored or inform Internet users that their e-mail privacy is (or is not) being respected.
Excerpted from the Libraries and the Internet Tookit (2012)
American Library Association
Office for Intellectual Freedom
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 4223
Permission is granted to libraries to reproduce this guideline.