Internet, Public Computers and Devices Use Policy

The Internet and the Library’s Mission

The Palo Alto City Library provides public access to the Internet in support of its mission to enable people to explore library resources to enrich their lives with knowledge, information and enjoyment.

Consistent with the Library’s mission, the Library affirms the principles and rights delineated in the American Library Association’s Access to Electronic Information, Services and Networks, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, of which the following are of particular importance:

  • Users’ access should not be restricted or denied for expressing or receiving constitutionally protected speech.
  • Information retrieved or utilized electronically is constitutionally protected unless determined otherwise by a court with appropriate jurisdiction. These rights extend to minors as well as adults.
  • Users have both the right of confidentiality and the right of privacy.
  • Electronic information, services, and networks provided directly or indirectly by the library should be equally, readily and equitably accessible to all library users.
  • Providing connections to global information, services, and networks is not the same as selecting and purchasing materials for a library collection.
  • Parents and legal guardians who are concerned about their children’s use of electronic resources should provide guidance to their own children.
  • Libraries and librarians should not deny or limit access to electronic information because of its allegedly controversial content or because of the librarian’s personal beliefs or fear of confrontation.
  • The provision of access does not imply sponsorship or endorsement.

Library’s Role

The Library:

  • Provides computers with network connections and an unsecured wireless network for Internet access;
  • Provides staff to assist in locating sites and information on basic Internet navigation and in the use of equipment for Internet-related services;
  • Enlists volunteers who offer free individual tutorial sessions on how to use the Internet;
  • Uses an access management system on its public Internet computers to establish queuing, manage time limits and assess printing charges;
  • Requires customers to use their own Palo Alto City Library card to borrow a laptop or logon to a library Internet computer;
  • Offers short-term visitor passes for limited access to the Internet to customers without a library card;
  • Does not restrict, filter, or edit Internet content;
  • Does not keep a permanent record of the Internet sites visited or searches performed by individuals; 
  • Assumes no responsibility for any damages, direct or indirect, arising from its connections to the Internet or for the loss of personal electronic documents, files, or file storage devices while using the Library’s computers and Internet access

User Responsibilities

Users are encouraged to be good information consumers by evaluating the validity of information accessed via the Internet. Users are also cautioned that ideas, points of view and images can be found on the Internet that are controversial, divergent or inflammatory. All Internet users are expected to use this Library resource in a responsible and courteous manner and to abide by the following regulations for the use of Internet resources in the Library:

  • To accommodate maximum access for all, the Palo Alto City Library regulates the amount of time each customer uses library public PCs and other devices. Staff periodically alters restrictions and exceptions based on customer demand. Printing is available for a fee as determined by the City’s Municipal Fee Schedule.
  • Customers may not use library cards belonging to others to log on to, reserve, or check- out library-provided computers and equipment.
  • Users may not invade the privacy of others. No more than two people may use a workstation at the same time.
  • Users may not unplug, remove, or otherwise modify library equipment.
  • Library computers and networks may not be used to transmit spam, to propagate destructive processes such as computer viruses or worms, or to engage in any illegal activity over the Internet.
  • It is solely the responsibility of the wireless device owner/user to provide antivirus protection, and to configure personal equipment with appropriate security settings to control access from other wireless devices within library facilities and the Internet itself. Wireless users assume all risks in this regard.

It is illegal to physically or electronically modify library computer equipment or other devices, or tamper with hardware or software, as established in the California Penal Code, Section 502.  Unauthorized use of library computers, compromising the rights of other library customers or workers in their use, or any violation of the Internet user guidelines can result in the suspension of Internet and/or library privileges as prescribed in the Disruptive Behavior in the Library Policy.

The following laws govern the use of the Library’s public Internet computers and networks:

  • Child Pornography - California Penal Code Section 311.3 prohibits the sexual exploitation of a child. “A person is guilty of sexual exploitation of a child if he or she knowingly…duplicates, prints, or exchanges any representation of information, data or image, …that depicts a person under the age of 18 years engaged in an act of sexual conduct.”
  • Harmful to Minors - California Penal Code 313 et. seq. defines a violation as “every person who, with knowledge that a person is a minor, knowingly exhibits or offers to distribute or exhibit by any means, matter which is harmful to minors”. Computers are located in public areas where minors may be present.
  • Hostile Work Environment - Displaying explicit, graphic, or obscene images on computers in the library may create a hostile workplace environment for staff and may constitute a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace.
  • Tampering with Equipment and Software - It is illegal for users to physically or electronically modify library computer equipment, or to tamper with hardware, software, or computer networks (California Penal Code, Section 502 et.).
  • United States Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) prohibits the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of copyrighted materials, except as permitted by the principle of “fair use”. This includes electronic information sources and software. Users are responsible for any consequences of copyright infringement.
  • Confidentiality -The Library maintains the confidentiality of customer usage of the Internet. However, the Library will cooperate with law enforcement upon court order in providing access to customer records to the extent required by the California Public Records Act (California Government Code section 6267) and other State or Federal statutues.

Guidelines for Parents

Parents or guardians have the right and responsibility to determine and monitor their children’s access to library materials and resources, including those available through the Internet. The Library does not act in loco parentis in the supervision or restriction of children’s use of the Internet. The following recommendations are intended to assist parents and guardians in guiding children in their use of the Internet:

  • Visit the Library with your child.
  • Spend time online visiting sites with your child.
  • Discuss topics that may be off limits when they are on the Internet.
  • Explain the importance of never giving identifying information such as home address, telephone numbers, passwords or school names over the Internet.
  • Caution never to arrange to meet in person with people they have become acquainted with using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications.
  • Ask the library staff for help in finding information on the Internet and for a listing of websites designed to promote Internet safety awareness for children.

Revised: May 2018

Print