CHICAGO — The following is a statement issued by American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom Director Barbara Jones regarding Internet filtering practices in U.S. libraries:
“Librarians have a special role in our democracy to safeguard everyone's access to information protected by the First Amendment. For this reason, the ALA opposes any obstacle to library users' access to constitutionally protected content, not only because such practices can violate the First Amendment, but because such practices hinder the library’s mission to provide free and open access to information.
"The Internet empowers users to choose for themselves the information they wish to view. Unlike collecting and purchasing books or magazines, the library provides access to the Internet as a whole. However, not every website is appropriate for young children.
"To this end, the American Library Association and its members take the protection of children online very seriously. Librarians develop policies and practices and work cooperatively with parents to assure that what a child reads, views, or borrows from the library is age-appropriate and a good fit for the child. While voluntary use of technology tools can assist parents in guiding their child, such technological 'quick fixes' cannot teach critical reasoning skills to children, help children develop effective coping skills or foster an ethic of responsible use of the Internet. Only parents, librarians and educators working together can teach children the skills they need to navigate this essential source of information.
"The very best way to protect children is to teach them to be their own filters by making wise decisions about what they see and view – whether it’s at home or at the library.
"Libraries are community institutions that serve people of every age and collect a wide range of materials to serve both adults and young people. The ALA encourages public libraries to adopt policies that protect public access to information while promoting a positive experience for all library users."
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.