Library Computer Policies

All libraries create policies for the different departments in the library. Each of the different departments of the library have different rules that need to be followed. Libraries have certain legal and ethical obligations to consider when developing a policy.  The policies for the department which pertains to computer and internet use mainly discuss the restrictions in place for internet use and the privacy of the people who uses the computer.

Each library has a different policy regarding computer and internet use, but some aspects of the policies are consistent. In many libraries, it is a standard policy that certain material is not allowed to be viewed such as child pornography. Some libraries have filters in place which disable this type of material from being accessed. Furthermore, libraries have policies against downloading illegal programs or material. Certain libraries may have more specific requirements for internet use. Some require that the internet only be used to obtain information whereas others allow people to use it to gather information and for entertainment. Due to the number of computers and the demand for them, some libraries will restrict the amount of time patrons can use computers.

Libraries expect the patrons to be well behaved and use good judgment while using the computers and the internet. It is expected that people will log in with their id number, will not harass other users, will not hack into other computers or accounts, and will not damage the equipment in any way. Patrons who violate these policies may be banned from future use of computers at that library. Depending on the offense, criminal charges may be pressed.

In some cases, libraries have these policies in place to uphold the law. Libraries which receive monetary assistance for internet services must comply with the regulations of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). It is meant to keep children from viewing material that is considered obscene, harmful to minors, or child pornography (FCC, n.d.). It can be difficult to determine what material is and is not appropriate for children. People have varying opinions about what children should have access to. Some material, which many people feel is inappropriate for children, does not fit the legal definitions of the types of things children are protected from seeing. Therefore the library is not obligated to keep children from accessing it (ALA, 2000).

Other policies are made for the benefit of the library and its patrons. They want patrons to be well behaved and to respect the privacy of others so all patrons and employees can be in a peaceful environment. Also libraries do not want their equipment destroyed. It reduces the number of computers they have available for other patrons, and it can be expensive to fix or replace the equipment.

The Code of Ethics of the American Library Association (ALA)  is an important factor in the development of policies. These ethics require that the best possible service is given to the patrons and that they have access to all of the libraries resources (ALA, 2008). For instance, some policies include time limits on computers to ensure everyone has access within a timely manner. To give good service, the privacy of patrons must be ensured. For those who are knowledgeable with computer technology, the internet provides a way for people to obtain private information of others. Not only is it illegal, but this violates the ethical obligations of librarians to keep personal information of patrons confidential, which is why policies are made against patrons who violate the privacy of others (ALA, 2008).

The Code of Ethics also states that libraries should avoid censoring materials (ALA, 2008).  This is a complicated issue in terms of computers and the internet. The internet provides access to a wide variety of material including material that is against the law. Some libraries use filters in an attempt to block the offensive and inappropriate material in regards to children. However filters are not reliable tools. They may block material that people have a right to see and may allow information to be seen that shouldn’t be. Because of this, filters are used only if it is absolutely necessary (ALA, 2000). 

Many materials in libraries, including material on the internet, is subject to copyright laws. Basically this means that written works and works of art cannot be reproduced without permission. It is an ethical obligation and a law in regards to copyright issues, so it is included in library policies that copyrighted material should not be copied or downloaded from the internet (ALA, 2008).

The ALA has guidelines for librarians to use when developing policies. Policies, as it was discussed earlier, must comply with any applicable laws (ALA, 2005). Laws may vary in different locations, so the policies may have to be adapted in different ways. The guidelines state that policies should follow the Library Bill of Rights, which strongly emphasizes that people should not be discriminated against in any way. In other words, everyone should have equal access to all resources. Furthermore, the policies should be easy to understand and made available to the patrons. To ensure that the policies follow all of the appropriate guidelines, ethics, and laws, they need to be reexamined at regular intervals and revised if necessary (ALA, 2005).

The Association for Library Service to Children recommends certain guidelines specifically for internet use. They recommend that it is clear in the policy whether or not the library uses a filter. It is advisable to inform patrons about any restrictions on use such as time limits. It is recommended that CIPA is explained so the patrons understand the restrictions on internet use that are specifically in place for children. Inappropriate behavior which may cause the patron to lose internet privileges should be described in the policy as well as the appeals process if the library has one (Harris, 2003). 

It is a complicated process to develop a comprehensive policy. It is necessary that the policies follow the Code of Ethics of the ALA, the Library Bill of Rights, and any applicable laws. The ALA has several guidelines for developing policies which should be taken into consideration. It is recommended that the policy is written or reviewed by a lawyer to ensure that the policy is in compliance with all laws in that area (Harris, 2003). Restrictions on internet use may vary based on the type of library. Each type of library may have different expectations for how the internet will be used based on the needs of the people who use the libraries. Regardless of the type of library, it is important to have a policy that explains proper behavior and use for all situations relating to computers and the internet, which should be available to the patrons. 

References

American Library Association. (2008). Code of ethics of the american library association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics

American Library Association. (2000). Guidelines and considerations for developing a public library internet use policy. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/bbooks/challengedmaterials/preparation/guidelines-internet-use-policy

American Library Association. (2005). Guidelines for development and implementation of policies, regulations and procedures affecting access to library materials, services and facilities. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/statementspols/otherpolicies/guidelinesdevelopmentimplementation

Federal Communications Commission. (n.d.) Children’s internet protection act. Retrieved from http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act

Harris, Cathy. (2003). Internet safety policy guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/alsc/issuesadv/internettech/childrentheinternetpoliciesthatwork/childreninternetarttwo

Educational Video Games

People don’t necessarily think of video games when they think of libraries, but video games have a role in many libraries. Educational games can be great especially for children. My local library has a variety of educational games in the children’s section. This is an excellent service to provide. Not only does it make the library fun for kids but they get to learn at the same time. For one of my classes, I had to make an educational video game. It was a fun project. My game was a simple one about the continents. Click here to play.

Editing HTML

This information is related to my post about the digital divide. This shows the information from the bar graph about internet use in relation to income in a different way. This table shows the percentages more clearly.

Internet use by income Internet at home Internet use outside of the home No internet use
24,000 or less 47% 14% 39%
25,000-34,999 63% 13% 24%
35,000-49,999 78% 9% 13%
50,000-74,999 87% 6% 7%
75,000-99,999 94% 3% 3%
100,000-149,999 96% 2% 2%
150,000 and over 98% 1% 1%

The Digital Divide and Libraries

The digital divide is the division between those who have the internet at home and those who do not. As the internet has become more popular over the years, this isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be, but it still is an issue. Libraries have an important role in the digital divide by providing free access to the internet.

From the United States Census Bureau. 1155- Household Internet Usage In and Outside of Home, by Selected Characteristics: 2010.

From the United States Census Bureau. 1155- Household Internet Usage In and Outside of Home, by Selected Characteristics: 2010.

As of 2010, the majority of people in the United States of America access the internet at home. Only a third of people without the internet at home access it at other places. It’s surprising that 20% of the population does not use the internet at all. Those people are at a disadvantage because more and more necessary functions such as searching and applying for jobs are performed on the internet (Plumb, 2007).

Those who use the internet at places other than their homes do not get the same experience with the internet as those who do use it at home. People do not have unlimited time to spend on the internet when not using it at home, so they probably don’t explore as many areas on the internet as those with it at home (Kinney, 2010). Overall, there are a fair amount of people who could benefit from access or better access to the internet.

From the United States Census Bureau. 1155- Household Internet Usage In and Outside of the Home, by Selected Characteristics: 2010.

From the United States Census Bureau. 1155- Household Internet Usage In and Outside of the Home, by Selected Characteristics: 2010

There are various characteristics that are common among people who don’t have access to the internet at home, but one of the major factors that divides those who have the internet and those who don’t is income. The graph depicts the percentage of people who have access at home, use the internet at places other than home, and those who don’t use the internet based on various income levels. It is obvious how as the income level increases so does use and access to the internet.

Another characteristic which is useful for predicting use of the internet is education. Having a college education is indicates that internet use especially in the home is likely. This is strongly correlated with income because an education leads to higher paying jobs.

From the United States Census Bureau. 1157- Internet Access and Usage: 2010

From the United States Census Bureau. 1157- Internet Access and Usage: 2010

The internet is accessed from a variety of places. Even those with access at home will use the internet elsewhere. People without the internet at home or at work, which are the two most common places to access the internet, have limited options for internet use. A growing number of people use mobile devices for the internet, but that is not always as reliable and efficient depending on the connection. Many places provide free WIFI, but most of the do not have computers for people to use. Others may use the internet at other people’s houses if possible.

The places people are least likely to use the internet are schools and libraries. However, libraries are important in terms of internet access for those who do need it. They provide free access to computers and the internet. Another benefit for people using the internet at the library is that they can get assistance if they need help using it (Kinney, 2010). It may seem like libraries play a small role in the digital divide, but the services the library provides are valued by those who need them. It should be the duty of the community via the library to aid those in need because the knowledge the internet can provide benefits everyone.

Kinney, B. (2010). The internet, public libraries, and the digital divide. Public Library Quarterly, 29(2), 104-161. doi:10.1080/01616841003779718

Plumb, T. K. (2007). Challenges and opportunities for electronic resources (ER) librarians in facing down the digital divide. Collection Management, 32(3/4), 327-349. doi:10.1300/J105v32n03_06

How to get better search results at USF

As a college student, I’ve had to do a lot of research. There have been many times where I’ve had to work in a group on papers and assignments that require research. It always amazed me how a large number of people had no idea how to navigate the library website to find the information they needed. When I worked in groups, this often meant that I had to do a good portion of the research myself because my group members couldn’t find what they were looking for or didn’t find information that was relevant.

Knowing how to effectively find the information needed makes the process of research much easier. All university library websites are different, but most of them probably have similar search features. It is easy to restrict the type of information by things such as source or subject. Most teachers I’ve had request that peer reviewed scholarly articles are the source material. University libraries make this type of information easy to find. Normally all it takes is to click a button. Check out my instructional handout on getting better search results at the University of South Florida library.

How to get better search results at USF

The High Cost of E-books for Libraries

E-books have become quite popular. This has made many libraries conclude that it would be a good idea for them to acquire e-books. In theory it doesn’t seem like this should be a problem. Libraries buy a book and loan it out all for the reasonable price of one book. Unfortunately it isn’t as simple with e-books.

E-books are considered by most people to be a digital form of a book, so most expect that it would come with many of the same perks of having a real book. But they don’t. E-books can’t be lent to friends or be read on a wide variety of e-readers because of all that pesky digital rights management (DRM) stuff. DRM is basically a computer code that restricts how the book can be used. E-book readers have limited rights with what they can do with an e-book although it is still paid for just like a actual book.

As Wired recently pointed out, one of the biggest misconceptions with e-books is that they are owned. The publisher allows consumers to lease them. Consumers essentially pay to lease a book indefinitely, which is why people cannot do as they please with an e-book. This concept of leasing rather than owning is what makes it difficult for libraries to obtain e-books. Publishers do not want to loan a book to a library, so they can in turn loan it to others many times.

There is another issue with libraries obtaining e-books: the price. For consumers, e-books can be much cheaper than the actual book. This isn’t always the case, but there are times where the e-book price is drastically cheaper than the book. As it turns out, publishers aren’t willing to give these good pricing deals to libraries. They expect libraries to pay an extremely high price for e-books.

The American Library Association is trying to discuss options with publisher to make e-books more accessible for libraries but doesn’t seem to be making headway. Some publishers have flat out refused to allow libraries to have access to their e-books while others have increased to prices of them. One publisher limits the amount of times a library can loan an e-book before they have to lease it again.

All of this explains why some libraries still do not have any e-books and why most libraries don’t have a good selection of e-books. Hopefully things will change in the future, but right now the outcome is looking grim for libraries. It is understandable that publishers want to make money, but it also seems unfair to charge exorbitant prices for e-books to libraries when the same isn’t done for real books.