Internet Use Policy across Canadian public libraries

I’ve been pretty critical of Vancouver Public Library’s new Internet Use Policy. After sending a letter to their Board I was wondering what other public library policies were like. VPL is a member of the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, so I thought it would be interesting to see what other member libraries policies were.

I put up a spreadsheet on Google Drive and got help from some other librarians (thanks Justin, Myron and Sarah for your help and translations). Here’s my initial thoughts.

VPL’s policy isn’t the worst.

Here are some things that I was a bit shocked to learn:

  • Brampton Public Library filters their public wireless network.
  • Burlington Public Library,  Windsor Public Library  and Winnipeg Public Library prohibit using FTP. I wonder about the reason for this.
  • Burlington Public Library has tried to use very accessible language, which I appreciated reading over the policies that are written in legalese: “If you would hesitate to show the site you are viewing to a child, your mom, or ‘Uncle Bob,’ it means it is inappropriate in a public setting. Please click away to another site.” (This is pretty vague, my “Uncle Bob” could have very different standards of appropriateness than your “Uncle Bob”.)
  • Calgary Public Library‘s policy states that “Your access to the Library’s Network is in public space, and you must not display materials on this Network which, in the opinion of any Library staff, are unlawful, obscene, abusive or otherwise objectionable.” Any library staff? This seems very arbitrary and wide.

I was surprised at how many libraries policies include phrases like sexually explicit materials, pornography, overt sexual images. Richmond Hill Library  and Regina Public Library‘s  policies mention “illicit drug literature”.  A few libraries mention hate literature, hate speech or incitement to hate and hateful propaganda. A handful of libraries mention that copyright infringement is prohibited.

It was disappointing that some libraries (Bibliothéque Ville de Laval, and Guelph Public Library)  don’t seem to have their internet use policies published on their website.

So many of these policies sound like the 90s. There’s a lot of language about the internet being unregulated and that some of the information on the library may not be accurate, complete, or current and there may be controversial information out there. I read the phrase “The Library is not responsible for the site content of links or secondary links from its home pages” more than once.  I think that these days we accept these things as common knowledge.  Greater Victoria Public Library‘s policy states that their “website (www.gvpl.ca) recommends  sites that provide quality information resources for both adults and children.” This seems like a very dated way of viewing information literacy.

Toronto Public Library‘s policy is worth reading. I like that it’s written in plain English. I think they do a good job of  acknowledging that users are sharing public space  without singling out sexually explicit content:

Internet workstations are situated in public areas, and users are expected to use the Internet in accordance with this environment. All users of the Toronto Public Library, including users of the Library’s Internet services, are also expected to follow the Library’s Rules of Conduct which are designed to ensure a welcoming environment. Disruptive, threatening, or otherwise intrusive behaviour is not allowed and Library staff are authorized to take action.

I’m not sure how this policy is being applied, it could be good or a bit of a disaster. I don’t know.

5 thoughts on “Internet Use Policy across Canadian public libraries”

  1. Nope. Didn’t see that mentioned in the ones I read. Which is tempting me to read All The Internet Use Policies, but that might need to wait until the summer is over.

  2. Hi Tara, have you updatd the spreadsheets since posting this last August? It’s excellent work, by the way!

    Incidentally, I’m attending the BC library conference this year – hope to see you there – say hello. 🙂

    Alvin

  3. Thanks Alvin! Looking at Google Drive the last person to update was Jane Schmidt on October 18, 2014. So perhaps there’s been some changes since then? I’m not sure.

    Super thrilled to hear you’re coming to BCLA! I look forward to seeing you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *