Why doesn’t Haverhill Public Library “filter” its computers?

  • Haverhill Public Library is a main source of information for the people and organizations that use our resources and services. Filters, as they now exist, would compromise that main mission because in addition to blocking access to undesirable images, they block access to information that is constitutionally protected.
  • Filters are commercial products sold by vendors. The library would have virtually no control over what the vendors decide to block or not to block.
  • Filters are expensive, both in terms of initial cost and ongoing management. They would interfere with the effective operation of the library’s computer resources. For example, in order to be constitutionally acceptable, filters must be disabled upon the request of any adult. Current filtering products do not support networked solutions to these individual requests, resulting in severe management problems. We simply do not have the staff resources to respond in a timely manner to requests to turn the filter off, and then turn it back on, while still answering reference questions for our patrons.
  • While some federal technology grant funds may be denied libraries that chose not to filter, the vast majority of public libraries have still chosen not to filter. This decision is both philosophical and financial. For HPL, filtering would cost us far more than we stand to lose in federal funds. Our local and state funding is not affected by the decision not to filter. Our network (MVLC) has also voted not to filter.
  • Determining just who is an adult (17 and over by Children’s Internet Protection Act definition) and legally entitled to have the filter turned off, and who is not, raises issues of our patron’s privacy.

What does the library do to protect the safety of children?

  • Library staff enforces the library’s Internet policy which is designed to protect the rights of all library users, while denying the use of computers to those who use these resources illegally, or who use them in a way that is offensive to other library users.
  • The library has policies in place to help children and parents use the library in a safe way. The library does not allow adults to use the Children’s Room computers unless they are with their child. The library requires that all children under the age of ten be accompanied by someone over the age of 14 while in the library. In addition, all library staff pay close attention to activity in the building, and intervene, when necessary, to maintain a safe environment.
  • The library staff offers instruction on the use of the Internet, and the library provides access to paid periodical and other informational databases to assist students in finding information to complete their homework.

What can parents do to help their children use the Internet safely and successfully?

  • Take an active interest in your child’s use of the Internet. Find out what he or she is using the Internet for and accompany your child to the library.
  • Set limits on your child’s use of the Internet, both in terms of the amount of time they spend online, and on what they are doing when they are online.
  • Educate your child about the dangers of corresponding with strangers over the Internet. Tell them never to agree to meet anyone whom they “meet” online, using email or instant messaging.
  • Filters are not an effective substitute for the influence of a parent. Parental involvement is the key to knowing what children are doing online.
  • The following link will help parents find information about how to keep their children safe while using the Internet: National Center for Exploited and Missing Children

Approved: Board of Library Trustees, November 20, 2003