Topsham Public Library Internet Use Policy Change Announcement

To: Topsham Board of Selectmen and Town of Topsham
From: Susan M. Preece, Director
Date: May 6, 2016
Re: Topsham Public Library Internet Use Policy

At the direction of the Governance Committee of the Board of Trustees, I am writing to inform you about a policy change that will be voted upon at the next Library Board meeting on May 25, 2016.

The library receives high-speed, fiber Internet connection through the Maine School and Library Network (MSLN). The funding for this network comes from a federal program known as E-rate and a partnership facilitated by state statute jointly provided through the Public Utilities Commission and Network Maine. A condition of receiving E-rate funding has been the compliance with applicable standards imposed by federal legislation called the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). A recent federal audit has changed the interpretation of the rules for compliance with CIPA for Maine Public Libraries, along with public libraries from other states.

In the past, it has been the written policy of the library and other public libraries to provide unfiltered Internet content. The burden for determining what children had access to on the Internet was placed on the parents of children. As a result of the recent audit, we have been informed that our policy is not compliant with CIPA and in order to continue to receive the federal subsidy of $5,600 annually for Internet service through MSLN, we must install filtering software to all of our computers. Filtering has been eschewed by the library community in the past and CIPA has been the subject of a Supreme Court case because of the potential infringement on First Amendment Rights. In addition, there is substantial empirical evidence that Internet filters do not work and often serve to deprive access to constitutionally protected content.

The State of Maine, along with other states is appealing the findings of the federal audit but we must forfeit federal funding in the amount of $5,600 per year or abide by the new CIPA interpretation for the next fiscal year. The Board of the Topsham Public Library, like most other public libraries across the state have reluctantly agreed to change our Internet filtering policy for this fiscal year and review the results over the next 6 months. It is our hope that the appeal will uphold the right of public libraries to remove filtering software with no financial penalty to us.

The Topsham Public Library upholds and affirms the right of every individual to access constitutionally protected material.

You can find a draft of the proposed internet policy here: CIPA-Compliant Internet Safety Policy