Public Use of the Internet Policy

The Seattle Public Library provides access to a broad range of information resources, including resources available through the Internet. The Library makes Internet service available to the public as part of its mission to bring people, information and ideas together. In this effort, the Library provides free and open access to all types of information for Library patrons of all ages and backgrounds.

The Internet is a global network of ideas, images and commentary that provides free and timely access to large amounts of practical and educational materials from around the world. However, the Library cannot control the information available over the Internet and is not responsible for its content. Some websites provide information that is inaccurate, incomplete or dated, and some content may be offensive, disturbing and potentially illegal.

To help protect the privacy of computer users and the interests of other Library patrons, the Library attempts to minimize the unintentional viewing of potentially offensive content to the extent that it is feasible to do so by intentional placement of computers and provision of privacy screens. The Seattle Public Library has chosen to comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Public Use of the Internet Policy reflects CIPA guidelines and requirements for public libraries. The Library complies with CIPA requirements for Internet filtering in order to be eligible for federal funds such as e-rate reimbursements and Library Services and Technology Act grants.

Policy Statement
The Seattle Public Library upholds the rights of all Library patrons to read, seek information and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment, regardless of format or technology. These are fundamental rights in a democratic society and are core values of the Library. Consequently, except as set forth in this Policy, the Library does not monitor, filter or endorse materials on the Internet. The Library has attempted to select filtering software that best complies with CIPA while providing Library users with the broadest possible access to constitutionally protected speech and information.

Rules Governing Use
In order to allow all patrons an opportunity to use the equipment, patrons are asked to comply with sign up and time limitations. All computer users are asked to respect the privacy of other users and not attempt to censor or comment upon what others are viewing. The Library's Rules of Conduct and pertinent state, federal and local laws and regulations apply to all Library patrons, including computer users.

Library computers and Wi-Fi may not be used for any illegal activity including, but not limited to:

  • Damaging or altering computer equipment, systems or software.
  • Displaying, printing or sending any material that is illegal, libelous, threatening or harassing.
  • Downloading or installing any harmful program defined as, but not limited to, spyware, viruses, Trojans, malware or any other illegal utility on any computer.
  • Accessing unauthorized computers or systems for unlawful purposes ("hacking").
  • Violating copyright or trademark laws, software licensing agreements or intellectual property rights.

Users engaging in these activities may lose computer privileges and/or be asked to leave the Library. Library staff may summon law enforcement authorities if necessary.

Access by Adults

Library patrons age 17 and older may disable the filtering software without staff intervention in order to obtain unfiltered Internet access for research or other lawful purposes.

Access by Minors

The Library affirms the right and responsibility of parents and caregivers to monitor their child's use of Library materials and resources, including their use of Library computers to access the Internet, electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications. To assist parents in monitoring their child's use of the Internet, the Library:

  • Provides specially designed Web pages for children and young adults, with links to age-appropriate websites and filtered search engines.
  • Maintains commercial filtering software on public access computers that restricts minors under the age of 17 from accessing visual depictions that are obscene, contain child pornography, or are otherwise harmful to minors. This filtering software will block many specific sites that may be offensive to some, but may not block out all materials that may be offensive to all users. Parents should inform their children of materials they do not want them to use and may wish to supervise their children's Internet sessions.
  • Considers placement of public computers in each Library location to minimize inadvertent viewing of public computer sessions.
  • Encourages all parents and guardians to learn about their children's online activities and to join in their children's exploration of the Internet. The Library also encourages parents and caregivers to tell their children about the importance of (i) not revealing personal information online and (ii) asking for permission before giving their last name or personal information to any website.

This policy applies to all Library patrons who access the Internet at a Library branch, including the Central Library.

Related Laws, Policies and Procedures
Board Policy, Intellectual Freedom in Libraries.

Administrative Procedure, Online Privacy and Terms of Use.


Adopted: April 27, 2023
Supersedes Policy: Supersedes Public Use of the Internet adopted June 27, 2012 and revised Oct. 28, 2015. Previously titled Internet Use Policy. Current version supersedes Internet Use Policy adopted by the Library Board Dec. 14, 1999 and revised Jan. 22, 2002.