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Internet Use Policy


The Library maintains access to the Internet as a tool for its staff and customers to locate information in electronic format around the globe. Access to the Internet is available free of charge to all Library customers. Providing Internet access enables the Library to bring its customers resources beyond the confines of its site-based collections, available only in electronic format, unique, or too costly. Although the Library provides Internet access free of charge, customers may encounter databases and resources that require passwords, student identification, or access fees that must be paid by the customer and may limit customer access. The Library also utilizes filtering software on all workstations.

The Internet is a global network of networks, operated by a variety of educational institutions, commercial, government, and nonprofit organizations with a broad base of information creators, providers, and consumers. The Library has no control over the accuracy or timeliness of the resources these entities make available to Internet users. Library customers must use this resource at their own risk, filtered through their own set of evaluative criteria in regard to what is valuable, accurate, up to date, and valid. As with all Library materials, programs and services the responsibility for what minors read or view on the Internet rests with a parent or legal guardian. Library staff are available to assist customers in selecting or suggesting the best mix of information resources to meet their needs.

This Library receives federal funding in support of public Internet access. Federal law requires libraries receiving such funding to install filters (software that blocks access to Internet material containing visual depictions that are obscene, contain child pornography, or are harmful to minors) on its Internet computers. Maryland law 23-506.1 requires that public libraries adopt and implement policies and procedures to prevent minors from access to obscene materials or child pornography. Because the filtering software is designed to block access to sexually explicit material, it may also block access to material that is constitutionally protected, for example, information about breast cancer or AIDS. Federal law allows the Library to unblock individual websites that customers believe should not have been filtered. Customers may request staff review of these websites by filling out a website evaluation form. In addition the Library will disable the entire filter for adult patrons age 17 and over upon request. The Library reserves the right to ask for identification establishing that this federal age requirement for removal of the filter has been met.

The Library prohibits any unlawful use of the Internet by its staff or customers. Users who engage in unlawful use of the Internet on Library workstations and property or who harass other users may be prosecuted and/or may lose borrowing privileges. The Library prohibits: attempts to download or make copies of unauthorized files, attempts to hack or crack Library or remote servers, displays of web site images which are pornographic or defined by Maryland State Law as obscene. The Library permits access to personal email and chat rooms by adults and minors. Users should exercise caution and follow safety measures when interacting with strangers online. In particular, parents must caution their minor children about sharing personal facts on the Internet.

Users of Library workstations are asked to use resources appropriately and to respect the privacy of others using nearby workstations. To preserve user privacy, the Library will never share, sell, or rent individual personal information it gathers, except for the purpose of recovering overdue items and fines or as ordered by subpoena under the USA PATRIOT ACT. The Library uses security measures to protect against the unauthorized access to personal identification data used by its system. The Library PC and print management system, SAM, does not retain information on websites visited by customers. The Library reserves the right to limit workstation and printer usage at peak hours or to schedule workstation and printer use in order to accommodate the largest number of customers at specific agencies.

The Library maintains a web site at www.prattlibrary.org and attempts to provide quality links to Internet resources for its customers. These include resources for children. In making recommendations and listing links from the Library’s websites, Library staff members choose electronic resources and Internet sites as they select materials for its collections, i.e., they seek a balanced, information-rich approach to topic and Internet resources that have clearly stated authority and mission, are well-designed, reliably updated and consistently available. Please check the Library’s Frequently Asked Questions page for information about the Library’s website selection policy and Internet Access Policy. Comments on these policies or requests for a staff review of blocked or unblocked websites may be made by completing a How is Pratt Doing Form that includes the customer's name & contact information, or by mailing a request to: Chief of the Information Access Division, Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore MD 21201.

Since the Internet is an electronic medium with multilayered telecommunications links among sites, it is subject to disruption in service delivery beyond the Library’s control. The Library makes every effort, however, to provide a stable and effective Internet service for its customers.

Rev. 2/07