Policy on Public Use of the Internet
To fulfill its mission of providing public access to information of all types in a wide range of formats, The New York Public Library provides access to Internet resources.
The Internet offers access to many valuable local, national and international sources of information. However, some information found on the Internet may be inaccurate, incomplete, dated, or offensive to some individuals. A good information consumer must evaluate the validity and appropriateness of information found.
Choosing and Evaluating Sources
The Internet is a series of communication linkages leading to a highly diverse array of information content. Library patrons use it at their own risk. In choosing sources to link to from its home pages, the Library follows its materials selection guidelines. Beyond this, the Library is not responsible for the content of the Internet, changes in content of the sources to which the Library home pages link, or for the content of sources accessed through secondary links. In an effort to assist its users, the Library has created websites for the general population, for teens and for children to help guide them to sources that are accurate, complete and current and that provide them with a wealth of information on the local, national and global level. In addition, the Library provides training for members of the public to assist them in using the Internet in a safe, effective and efficient manner. Finally, as set forth in greater detail below, in accordance with the Children's Internet Protection Act, the Library has implemented "technology protection measures" (i.e., software filtering) on all of its Internet-accessible computers.
As required by the Children's Internet Protection Act ("CIPA"), in order to remain eligible for certain federal funding, the Library has implemented software filtering on all of its Internet-accessible computer terminals. The software installed on Internet-accessible computers at the Library protects against access to visual depictions of obscenity, child pornography, and, in the case of persons under the age of 17 years, materials that are "harmful to minors." Users should be aware, however, that all currently available filtering software results in a degree of both "underblocking" (i.e., permitting access to certain material that falls within the foregoing categories) and "overblocking" (i.e., denying access to certain constitutionally protected material that does not fall within the foregoing categories). The Library has attempted to select filtering software that best complies with CIPA while providing Library users with the broadest possible access to constitutionally protected speech and information. The Library cannot and does not guarantee that the filtering software will block all obscenity, child pornography, or materials that are harmful to minors. Nor can the Library guarantee that the filtering software will not restrict access to sites that may have legitimate research or other value. In order to help address the overblocking problem and to enhance users' access to constitutionally protected speech and information, the Library requests that all users, both adults and minors, contact the Library at firstname.lastname@example.org (or at such other contact point as the Library shall designate from time to time) to request unblocking of an incorrectly blocked site. In addition, any user who is 17 years of age or older may disable the filtering software in order to obtain unfiltered Internet access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose by following the instructions provided on the computer screen or such instructions as the Library shall otherwise provide from time to time.
Access by Minors
Parents or legal guardians must assume responsibility for deciding which library resources are appropriate for their own children. Parents or legal guardians should guide their children in use of the Internet and inform them about materials they should not use. While the Library affirms and acknowledges the rights and responsibilities of parents and guardians to monitor and determine their children's access to Library materials and resources, including those available through the Internet, the Library has taken certain measures designed to assist in the safe and effective use of these resources by all minors.
- To address the issue of access by minors to inappropriate material on the Internet, including material that is harmful to minors, the Library:
- Develops and maintains special websites for children and teens;
- Develops and provides training programs on safe and effective Internet use;
- Encourages staff to guide minors away from materials that may be inappropriate;
- Distributes a publication entitled "A Safety Net for the Internet: A Parent's Guide"; and
- Has implemented filtering software as more fully described above.
- To address the issue of the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications, as well as the unauthorized disclosure, use and dissemination of personal identification information regarding minors, the Library provides training programs and also urges minors to keep in mind the following safety guidelines:
- Never give out identifying information such as home address, school name, or telephone number.
- Let parents or guardians decide whether personal information such as age, marital status, or financial information should be revealed.
- Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone via the computer without parents' or guardians' approval.
- Never respond to messages that are suggestive, obscene, threatening, or make one uncomfortable.
- Have parents or guardians report an incident to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 if one becomes aware of the transmission of child pornography.
- Remember that people online may not be who they say they are.
- Remember that everything one reads may not be true.
- To address the issue of unauthorized access, including so-called "hacking," and other unlawful activities by minors online, minors and all other Library users are hereby advised that use of the Library's computers for hacking or any other unlawful activity is strictly prohibited.
Rules Governing Use
Due to the limited resources available for provision of public access to the Internet, the Library may set limits, for example, on use of large files of still or moving images or sound, or on downloading files in any medium. The Library also reserves the right to limit the amount of time an individual user can devote to a single session. The public must comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws, including laws governing the transmission and dissemination of information while accessing the Internet, and with all Library policies and procedures.
Users may not:
- Use the network to make unauthorized entry into other computational, informational or communication services or resources.
- Distribute unsolicited advertising.
- Invade the privacy of others.
- Make any attempt to damage computer equipment or software.
- Engage in any activity that is harassing or defamatory.
- Use the Internet for any illegal activity, including violation of copyright or other rights of third parties, or in a manner inconsistent with the Library's tax-exempt status or its proper operation.
Violations may result in loss of access. Unlawful activities will be dealt with in an appropriate manner.
Public Users' Security
Users should be aware that the Internet is not a secure medium and that third parties may be able to obtain information regarding users' activities. However, The New York Public Library will not release information on the use of specific Internet resources by members of the public except as required by law or necessary for the proper operation of the Library.
The Library reserves the right to take appropriate action to insure compliance with this policy.
Guidelines on Access to Information
The New York Public Library is guided by the following American Library Association statements on access to information:
- The Library Bill of Rights
- Freedom to Read Statement
- Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: Free Access to Libraries for Minors and Access to Electronic Information Services and Resources
In general, the Library is guided by a commitment to access to information policies that provide appropriate protections to its patrons while being consistent with the Library's longstanding commitment to the principles of free expression as set forth in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Policy Subject to Revision
The Library's "Policy on Public Use of the Internet" may be revised from time to time.
As approved by the Board of Trustees on May 5, 2004.