Internet Acceptable Use Policies

Posted: September 12, 2003
Document author: Gerri Moeller

The OWLSnet Internet Policy requires an Internet Acceptable Use Policy to be on file with the Director of the Outagamie Waupaca Library System for each OWLSnet member library.

  1. 1. In order to receive access to the Internet through OWLSnet, a library must have a written, board-approved Internet Acceptable Use Policy on file with the Director of the Outagamie Waupaca Library System.
    • OWLS and NFLS staff will assist libraries on request in developing such policies and in dealing with challenges should they arise.

Policies with different titles may still meet the requirement. Possible titles include:

  • Computer Use Policy
  • Conditions of Computer Work-Station Use
  • Internet Policy
  • Internet Use Policy
  • Personal Computer Use Policy
  • Public Access Computer Access Policy


While the OWLSnet policy does not specify what items should be included in this policy, others have provided guidelines.

The ALA Checklist for Creating an Internet Use Policy suggests that you include the following:

  • “Ensure that your policies speak to access for all.”
  • “Provide a code of conduct or etiquette guide for using the Internet at your library. Include specific suggestions for positive action. Also list prohibited behavior and consequences of such behavior.”
  • “Include a statement addressing patron privacy.”
  • “Communicate clearly that users are responsible for what they access online; parents are responsible for their children’s Internet use.”

Additional suggestions are listed in The Guidelines and Considerations for Developing a Public Library Internet Use Policy (from the Intellectual Freedom Committee of ALA):

  • “Set forth reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.”
  • “Expressly prohibit any use of library equipment to access material that is obscene, child pornography, or ‘harmful to minors’ (consistent with any applicable state or local law)”
  • “Communicate the relevant policies for use of Internet-access computers to all library users, and include the parents of children who may use the library without direct parental supervision. Do so in a clear and conspicuous manner sufficient to alert library users that filtering software is not utilized.”

Bob Bocher, Library Technology Consultant for the WI Division for Libraries, Technology and Community Learning, in his article “Issues in Public Access to the Internet in Public Libraries”, notes that two core elements of any Acceptable Use Policy are:

  • “the library is not responsible for Net content, its authenticity or accuracy”
  • “parents are responsible for their child’s access and use”

He also adds that acceptable use policies should not only be approved by the board, but should also be reviewed by legal counsel.

A great place to start to develop your own Internet Acceptable Use Policy is Sample Library Policies for the Small Public Library, revised by David Polodna.

For Further Reading

American Library Association (2000). Guidelines and Considerations for Developing a Public Library Internet Use Policy.

Smith, Mark (1999). Internet Policy Handbook for Libraries. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Examples of Internet Use Policies


These guidelines are not legal advice and are not intended as such. Librarians who have legal questions should consult an attorney.