Libraries & the Internet Toolkit. (and Furthermore)

Teacher Librarian, June 2002 | Go to article overview
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Libraries & the Internet Toolkit. (and Furthermore)


Key Messages

* The Internet is an important and exciting information resource. Our goal as librarians is to help people of all ages make the most of it and become information literate. We encourage everyone to go to the library and learn how to use this incredible and valuable resource!

* Librarians care deeply about children. We know filters aren't the best way or the only way to protect children online.

* The best protection for children is to teach them to use the Internet properly and to make good choices.

* Librarians answer questions and guide children to quality web sites the same way they recommend books and other resources.

Fast Facts

* 95.7 percent of all public library outlets offer public access to the Internet.

* Public libraries offering Internet access have or are developing Internet use policies.

* For people without computers at home, work or school, libraries are the number one point of access to the Internet.

* Research has shown filters block at least one of five sites containing legal, useful information. They failed to block an average of 20 percent of material defined as undesirable.

Checklist for Creating an Internet Use Policy

The LAL strongly encourages all libraries to adopt and implement a written Internet use policy in the same way they adopt other library use and access policies. This policy should be in keeping with your library's mission statements, other access policies and community needs.

Traditionally, the children's and young adult sections contain materials selected for these groups, although children are not restricted to those areas. The same holds true for the Internet. For a discussion of the legal issues involved, see "Internet Filtering in Public Libraries," a memorandum from Jenner & Block at www.ftrf.org/ internetfilteringmemo.html.

Here are a few suggestions to consider when creating or updating your policies:

* Ensure that policies speak to access for all.

* Involve your library staff, board and Friends group in the policy writing process

* Keep it simple. Avoid Jargon. Making the policy too technical will confuse people.

* Make policies readily available and visible to the public.

* Provide a code of conduct or etiquette guide for using the Internet at your library. Include specific suggestions for positive action. Also list prohibited behavior.

* 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.

More tips and sample policies can be found at Internet Use Policies (www.ala.org/alaorg/oif/internetuse policies.html).

Please send copies of your Internet use policy to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611, to keep on file. To receive samples of policies and materials from other libraries or other intellectual freedom materials, contact the Office for Intellectual Freedom at 800-545-2433, ext. 4223, or send an e-mail to oif@ala.org. All of ALA's intellectual freedom policies and statements can be found on the OIF home page at www.ala.org/alaorg/oif/.

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.

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