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Internet Use Policy

In response to advances in technology and the changing needs of the community, The Otsego County Library endeavors to develop collections, resources and services that meet the informational, individual and educational needs of a diverse community.  It is within this context that the Otsego County Library offers access to the Internet.

The Internet is a global entity with a highly diverse user population and the Library has no control over its content.  Library staff and patrons can access a wealth of useful material that is not available locally and the Internet has made a huge impact in our ability to find the information we need at home, school or work.  But not all sources on the Internet provide accurate, complete or current information.  Internet users should always take into consideration the reliability of the content provider.  Patrons may also encounter sites that they find offensive or may be offensive to other library users.  Persons should be mindful and respectful of other patrons when displaying images in the library.

The Library is a public forum designed for public inquiry and, therefore, must not deny access to information protected under the first amendment.  On the other hand, text or images that may be reasonably believed to be prohibited by Michigan law¹ should not be displayed in the library.  The library will attempt through its policies to keep such materials from being accessed and displayed on library computers.  However, in accordance with Supreme Court guidelines, we will choose the least restrictive means possible so that valid information and protected speech are not inadvertently blocked.

Internet access in the library by minor children under 18 years of age also must comply with Michigan law.  Public Act 212 of 2000, which takes effect October 1, 2000, requires that the library either a) make available, to individuals of any age, one or more terminals that are restricted from receiving obscene matter or sexually explicit matter that is harmful to minors and reserving, to individuals 18 years of age or older or minors who are accompanied by their parent or guardian, one or more terminals that are not restricted from receiving any materials or b) utilizing a system or method that is designed to prevent a minor from viewing obscene matter or sexually explicit matter that is harmful to minors.  The Library believes that the best delineation of what is harmful to minors, as determined by  “contemporary community standards,” is the standard set by the parent or guardian for the minor.  Therefore, we recommend that the parent or guardian supervise their child’s Internet sessions if they have concerns about what their child may be accessing.  To most effectively address the issue of unsupervised minors, the library will employs a combination of methods allowed under PA 212.

The Library has provided unfiltered Internet access since December 1994 and has developed computer rules and regulations to ensure these resources are used responsibly.  We have used a system to assign and monitor Internet workstations that enforces computer rules and regulations (including time limits, use of games and chat) and Internet policy.  Workstations are in public areas in full view of staff and other patrons.  We believe this system has been successful in providing access to the widest range of useful information while restricting access to sites that are obscene, sexually explicit or harmful to minors as defined in Michigan law.¹

Description of System

·       Each workstation is numbered.

·       The patron must present ID when registering for a workstation.  We assign the patron to a specific workstation and record the name, date, computer number, time session started (and ended) and type of ID presented.

·       The staff makes random checks of the computer lab to check for compliance with rules and policy.  Any library staff member who observes a person disregarding computer rules and/or viewing inappropriate sites will direct that person to discontinue the behavior or remove the material from the computer screen and refrain from such action or viewing in the future.  Any person who refuses to comply with staff directions will be asked to leave the library premises.  Law enforcement personnel may be called to enforce compliance with such a request.

1.      First offense – Patron receives a verbal warning and the offense is noted and filed.

2.      Second offense – Patron receives a two-week suspension of computer privileges and must immediately leave workstation.  The suspension is noted and filed.

3.      Third offense – Patron loses computer privileges.  Priveleges may be reinstated only by the library board.

There are three areas of the library where Internet access is available:

  1. Children’s area – Three Gates Foundation computers are available for children 12 and under.  These computers will be set to the “Child” profile that does not allow Internet access.  Staff will change the profile to allow Internet access only upon request of the parent/guardian.  The parent/guardian must supervise the child during the entire Internet session.
  1. Reference area  -  The library will install free filtering software, such as a parent would use at home, on at least two computers in the area.  Adults who prefer filtered terminals and minors under 18 will be able to use these computers without supervision.  Signs will be posted to inform users that filtering software does not always block sites that they find personally offensive.  The Library may switch filtering software products at any time or remove all filtering software products if it is determined to be ineffective or too restrictive in blocking protected speech.  Those workstations without filtering software will be monitored as outlined in section 3 below.
  1. MSU Computer Lab -  The computers in this lab were installed for research purposes by Michigan State University.  Filtering is not an option in this lab because a) the filtering software would block out valid research materials and b) the lab runs off a server on the MSU campus so that it is not technologically feasible to install local filters.  In addition to Internet access, these computers are also loaded with productivity software and other applications that may be needed by young computer users.  In order to make these resources available to minor children and remain compliant with PA 212, any patron who cannot provide proof that he/she is at least 18 years old:
    1. Must be accompanied by a parent/guardian OR agree to allow the library staff to monitor their Internet use.
    2. Minors will be given a color-coded workstation card.
    3. Library staff will clear browser history files before a minor uses a workstation
    4. Library staff will make random checks (not more that 15 minutes apart) of all minors using Internet stations.
    5. Minors who deliberately access inappropriate sites will no longer be allowed to use the computer lab.

The Library Board of Trustees has adopted this policy in a good faith effort to comply with state law by October 1, 2000.  Library staff will continue to evaluate Internet access in the library and ways to regulate its use.  This policy will be reviewed every three months.

Adopted September 19, 2000.


¹The Library will use definitions from the following Michigan laws to determine what is obscene, sexually explicit or harmful to minors:

Act 33 of 1978 (Michigan’s Law on Sexually Explicit Materials Harmful to Minors)

Act 343 of 1984 (Michigan’s Law on Criminal Obscenity)

 2001, Otsego County Library
Last updated March 25, 2001