Internet Use Q & A
1. Why does BPL provide access to the Internet?
As a critical part of its mission to ensure free access to information for education, recreation, reference and lifelong learning, BPL is committed to delivering new sources of information in all formats. In 1996, we launched a system-wide technology initiative and installed computers with Internet access at the Central Library, the Business Library and all 58 neighborhood libraries. The Library continues to provide free public access to the Internet, a resource with the capacity to bring global, national and local information to all library users.
2. How does BPL help users navigate the Internet safety safely?
The Internet is a rich resource, offering access to ideas and information from around the globe. It is also a vast unregulated medium and contains some potentially offensive materials. However, the Library has taken the following steps to help adults, seniors, parents and children navigate the Internet safely:
- We display Internet Usage Agreements on all Library computers, with BPL's "Policy and Guidelines for Responsible Internet Use."
- We encourage Library staff and volunteers to guide patrons in Internet usage.
- We have installed free educational and recreational programs and databases that help users safely and effectively search and navigate the Internet.
- We regularly offer free computer workshops.
- We affirm the right and responsibility of parents and other caregivers to decide which library resources are appropriate for their children and to monitor their children's use of Library resources.
3. Why is BPL using Internet filtering software on its public access computers?
The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires libraries receiving federal support for online technology to implement filters that block material considered obscene, child pornography, or, in the case of persons under the age of 17, harmful to minors. In September 2003, the BPL Board of Trustees decided to comply with CIPA. The U.S. Supreme Court held that CIPA is constitutional: unlimited adult access to the Internet will be possible, since adults may request that the filtering technology be disabled, and they need not explain the reason for the request. Thus, adult library users can continue to benefit from federal e-rate discounts, without experiencing undue interference with public Internet access.
4. Does BPL have a policy to help protect children from pornography?
Filtering, although not perfect, will provide a safety screen to block children's access to pornography. At Brooklyn Public Library we do everything we can to create a safe and welcoming environment for children, and BPL staff and volunteers work hard to ensure that every child's Library experience is a positive one. To this end, Library users are expected to respect the Library's policy and act responsibly with regard to others' sensitivity to certain materials. The Library's policy forbids users to access materials that are legally defined as obscene, as child pornography, or, in the case of persons under 17, as harmful to minors.
5. What is a parent's role in children's safe Internet use?
As with the use of all Library resources, parents and caregivers are responsible for supervising their children's access to resources. While BPL offers numerous tools to promote safe Internet usage, we cannot replace a caregiver/parent's role. Only parents and caregivers can make decisions for their child based on the child's age and level of maturity in the context of their family's values. By spending time online with children, parents can learn about the Internet and teach children responsibility and appropriate conduct.
BPL encourages parents to do the following to help ensure safe and appropriate Internet use:
- Discuss family rules regarding Internet use at home and in the Library.
- Ask children to share their favorite Web sites and what they like about them.
- Ask staff for help selecting appropriate Library materials that correspond with family values and interests.
- Ask Librarians to help direct children to Internet resources that match their maturity level.
- Show interest in what children borrow from the Library and view on the Internet.
- Help children discover Web sites that can assist them with their homework, hobbies and other special interests.
- Teach children to be critical consumers of information. Like other media, online information may be inaccurate or trying to sell something.
It is important to remember that no Internet filter is foolproof. Parents cannot always directly supervise their children's computer use, but they can provide children with rules for communicating online, just as they have rules for dealing with strangers outside the home.
BPL suggests the following guidelines for kids:
- Always ask your parents' permission before using your full name, address, telephone number, or school name anywhere on the Internet.
- Always tell your parents or other adults you trust if you see something online that is scary or that you don't understand.
- Don't respond to messages that make you feel uncomfortable or uneasy.
- Never give out a credit card number or password online.
- Never arrange to meet in person someone you've met online unless you discuss it with your parents and an adult goes with you.
Of course, the vast majority of Internet sites are perfectly safe. But, like the real world, the virtual world contains some sites with sexual, violent, and other content that may not be appropriate for children. For more information on safe Internet choices, visit the following links which are maintained by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).