On June 23, 2003 the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that requires public libraries to install blocking software on all library computers providing Internet access to the staff and public as a condition of continuing to receive federal subsidies and grants.
All Internet access at the Scarborough Public Library, including wireless access, is provided by the Maine School and Library Network (MSLN) and is funded with “E-rate” federal funds. Therefore, the library is required to comply with the law to use this free Internet service.
Our Compliance Procedures
The law requires that children under the age of 17 be protected from visual depictions that are “obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors” and that the library has a policy (not necessarily a filtering policy) in place that addresses a number of issues, including:
- The unauthorized disclosure, use or dissemination of personal information regarding minors;
- The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, etc.;
- The technology protection measure (blocking software) that is in place
It is the Board’s understanding that the CIPA requirements for an internet safety policy addressing the concerns outlined in the second and third bullets above are targeted much more toward schools than public libraries. Short of blocking access to all social media sites, libraries have neither the staffing nor formal relationship with minors needed to adequately educate and ensure that minors are surfing and using social media on the internet safely. Ultimately the library must rely on the education minors receive at home and from their schools regarding internet privacy and safety concerns.
Consequently, we use software and services at the network level that identify and block sites by their web address. This software/service utilizes a compiled database of adult content site addresses. This form of filtering only filters entire sites (by domain name) that allow, and even promote, content within these database categories. We do not use “keyword” blocking (blocking based on the appearance of words in a site). We rely on the internal policies (and effective enforcement of those policies) within sites such as Google Images, Facebook, and Instagram that do not permit obscene and pornographic images based on their own interpretation of these categories.
By Board policy, websites accessed from all youth Internet capable computers are filtered to block sites that provide pornographic images and/or cater to visual depictions of extreme violence in order to comply with the requirements of CIPA. In addition to these CIPA mandates, access from the Children’s computers are also filtered to block content that doesn’t conform to community standards for youth appropriate content, including nudity, sites that promote violent behavior and other categories as determined and approved by the Board of Trustees (see blocked categories list). While chat, web e-mail and social networking sites are not explicitly blocked because they are so ubiquitous and integrated so tightly into the modern WebSphere, the library’s staff will occasionally monitor this use visually and intervene to discuss appropriate behavior when they suspect inappropriate behavior. To protect our network, hacking, computer security, proxy avoidance, and URL translation sites are also blocked.
Adult Public Computers, Lookups and Patron Wireless Devices
Access from Adult computers are also filtered for sites that provide pornographic images and/or cater to visual depictions of extreme violence in order to comply with the requirements of CIPA. Additionally, in order to protect our network from hacking, computer security, proxy avoidance, and URL translation sites are also blocked by our network filter.
Access from lookups (i.e., workstations designated for catalog and reference database access) are heavily filtered, as well as “locked down” through other means, since they are not intended for general internet browsing.
Patron owned wireless devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets) that access our Internet connection are also subject to the same filtering as our Adult Public Computers. Since these devices can be easily viewed by children in the library they are blocked from accessing sites that provide pornographic and extremely violent images to comply with CIPA.
Requests for Unblocking
The library staff will temporarily unblock a site for viewing on a site by site basis at the request of a user with research needs as long as the site is not, in our judgment, in violation of CIPA guidelines for displaying pornographic and violent images or is an illegal site or a threat to our network security.
Entire Internet sessions will not be unblocked, but rather the site that has been blocked by our network filtering service.
In accordance with the Court decision, a network-based filtering service is activated to comply with the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act to block sites that allow and promote pornographic and extremely violent images on all library computers, including staff workstations.
To protect the network and staff workstations from downloaded software, hacking, computer security, proxy avoidance, and URL translation sites are also blocked.
Network Administrator Has Wide Latitude
The Board of Trustees gives the network administrator wide latitude to block access to websites determined to be a threat to the library’s internal network and confidential data and to our users’ confidential information.
Policy approved June 16, 2016