What can be done to help people access the right computer at the library?
And how can the library help students who need to use the Internet to complete their homework, but whose parents won’t fill out the necessary paperwork allowing it?
These topics involving computer and Internet access were discussed when Keene Memorial Library’s advisory board met Monday.
Tina Walker, library director, said the library has 16 computers. Of those, six are for email and Internet use; four are for gaming and the Internet; and three are for gaming only with no Internet. The children’s portion of the library also has three computers.
Walker said staff and patrons have trouble keep straight which computers are to be used for which purposes. She would like for all computers to have the same access, except for the three in the children’s portion of the library which are child safe and don’t have Internet access.
She questioned other libraries and learned that Keene is the sole library in the state that has computers with specific purposes.
“We’re looking at making access easier and less complicated for staffing and patrons while maintaining a level of control over the access to meet the needs of the community and patrons,” Walker told the Tribune.
She believes the library advisory board will need to take time to discuss what can be done with respect to what the community needs —and that community input is needed.
Walker said the board and Fremont City Council must approve any changes to the policy.
The library board will need to talk about limits and restrictions on computer access and Internet accessibility.
Walker also pointed out a situation where students who need Internet access to complete their homework can’t access them, because their parents won’t come into the library to fill out the paperwork.
Anyone under age 19 must have signed parental permission to access email and Internet on the computers. They still may play games on the computers, however.
Children under age 13 must have a permission form signed by a parent even to receive a library card.
Youth ages 13 and older may obtain their own library card without parental permission. However, students ages 13 to 18 are minors and technically can’t sign a contract for liability of the materials — which a library card application is, Walker said.
Parents must come to the library to complete the paperwork and must bring proof of their identification and address, because they are responsible for the damage or loss of any materials being checked out.
Keene is one of the few libraries in the state that limits Internet accessibility by requiring a library card or guest pass to use one. Walker sent a 16-question survey to all Nebraska libraries asking if they limit Internet access. She is tabulating those results.
Walker also said the Keene library uses Internet provided through the City of Fremont, which has a filter. A child who logs onto a library computer won’t be able to look at a porn site, because the city has it filtered, she said.
In addition, the library uses Barracuda, a filtering software system that filters out harmful sites, including those with pornographic material.
However, youth would have access to Facebook and chat sites.
Walker noted that when surveying other libraries in the state, she said that in their opinion, the Fremont library’s computer access is the most restricted and filtered.
The Rev. Earl Underwood, an advisory board member, also inquired about the library’s liability if someone should get on a computer and access a terrorists’ site.
Walker said computers have a screen in which would-be users must agree to follow the library’s terms before having access to that machine, which places the liability on them.
More discussion on these topics is anticipated at future meetings.
In other business, Walker also said a local resident also is interested in donating funds to purchase materials and help provide classes for children with dyslexia.
The library will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and Friday.
The next advisory board meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 18 in the library. The meeting is open to the public.