Electronic Resources and the Internet Policy
(Currently under Revision)

“The mission of The Free Library of Philadelphia is to provide all segments of Philadelphia’s diverse population a comprehensive collection of recorded knowledge, ideas, artistic expression, and information in a variety of media, including current technology; to assure ease of access to these materials; and to provide programs to stimulate the awareness and use of these resources.”

The Free Library of Philadelphia provides equal access to Library resources in all formats to all Library users. The Free Library of Philadelphia is, therefore, committed to providing equal access to electronic resources for all of its users, and to systematically upgrade its equipment, materials, and telecommunications systems. Among these electronic resources, the Internet presents new opportunities and challenges for the integration of this vast information resource into the fabric of public library service.

This document constitutes a system-wide policy on use by the public of the resources made available through the use of computers and computer networks, and is based on existing Free Library policies.

Provision of access to electronic resources and equipment is based on the following premises:

  • The Free Library’s electronic resources will be used to advance the Library’s roles as outlined in its mission statement.
  • The Free Library serves users who have diverse needs and uses for information technology.
  • Individual Free Library agencies are at various points of development in the provision of information technology.
  • Information technology has changed the public’s use of the Library, the services the Library provides, and the nature of staff duties.
  • Electronic materials in the Library’s collections are selected in accordance with the Library’s Materials Selection Policy.
  • The Free Library provides an array of age-appropriate and competency-appropriate resources for children and adults who represent a cross-section of the community

Service Priority Guidelines

Although the Library’s plan for information technology involves enormous expansion of technological capabilities, resources are finite. Priorities of service have been established to provide a balance between the Library’s mission to provide information and educational support, and the public’s demand for access to electronic resources and computers. Priorities for public use are, in the following order:

  • Access to resources unique to the Free Library
  • Access to resources acquired for specific projects or programs
  • Access to information for which there is no print equivalent at an agency
  • Access to databases and resources which duplicate in whole or in part print versions
  • Access to educational software
  • Access to word processing, resume writing, and data processing

The Internet

The Internet is a global information network through which a vast amount of information and opinion is available electronically. This resource expands considerably the Library’s ability to fulfill its mission. Internet access provides the Library with a means of delivering to its users electronic resources purchased for the Library’s collection, Internet access also provides the Library with the ability to connect to sites that it has determined to meet the selection criteria in the Library’s Materials Selection Policy.

Access to the Internet, however, allows users to reach sites that are well beyond the scope of the Library’s collections and the mission of the Library. Some uses of the Internet may not be legal and/or appropriate for a public library. Library users must exercise judgment in determining the reliability and appropriateness of the material they access on the Internet.

Library staff will intervene if user behavior is inappropriate, or material on display disruptive or illegal. “Library Standards of Acceptable Behavior” is attached.

The Library will support parents and caregivers in understanding the Internet, and how their children can use it safely. Printed materials and instruction will be available to help parents guide their children’s use.

By July 1, 2004, in accordance with advice from the City Solicitor’s Office, the Library will comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Compliance includes the following:

  • installing on all computers a “technology protection measure” (filter) that blocks or filters, for children (under 17), Internet access to visual depictions that are
    • obscene
    • child pornography
    • harmful to minors
  • installing on all computers a “technology protection measure” (filter) that blocks or filters, for adults, Internet access to visual depictions that are
    • obscene
    • child pornography

No filter or procedures can totally eliminate material which may be inappropriate for some children or offensive to some people. Parents are urged to monitor Internet use of their children just as they monitor their children’s reading.


This policy concerns the use of resources that are in a state of change and development. The Library reserves the right to vary the mechanisms and procedures through which these services are provided.

Adopted 6/30/99 by Board of Trustees Executive Committee. Revised 4/6/2004.

Free Library agencies refer to branch and regional libraries, the Central Library, and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.