Best Practices in Filtering
Libraries using filters should take special precautions to do so in accordance with the library's mission. The following guidelines are provided to assist libraries implementing filters.
Protect Patron Privacy
Because of the way filters work, it is easy to accidentally invade patron privacy. Many of the filters have real-time monitoring features that should be turned off. Filters generate logs containing websites visited by patrons and these logs should be erased according to a written retention policy.
It is important to understand all the features associated with the filter you are using and turn off the unwanted features. Library administrators should also ensure that only authorized filter administrators have access to the filter server.
By default, most filters will block far more content than is appropriate in a library setting. It is important to cycle through several iterations of tweaking and tuning your filter configuration before determining that your filter is set to block as little content as necessary to comply with your Internet Use Policy.
Monitor Blocking Accuracy
Ensure that the monitoring of blocked sites in your library is someone's job and that they are adjusting the filter as needed when sites that should be allowed are being blocked. Do not rely upon patron complaints to tell you whether your filter is working because experience shows that most patrons do not complain when a site is blocked.
Make Unblocking Easy and Quick
Many filters provide features that enable adult patrons to turn off blocking for themselves either for a single site or for all sites for the duration of their session. Use these auto-selection features as much as possible to accommodate all patrons.
If patrons cannot unblock the sites for themselves, there must be a way for staff to quickly and easily perform this function for them. Some filters enable the user to request a site be unblocked via the blocked page itself. Others will require the patron to locate a staff person to unblock the site by entering a password or changing a setting on the server. Be sure your library has established a policy for handling unblocking requests swiftly and that the process is easy for both patrons and staff.
Keep Patrons Informed
Regardless of what your filter policy is, or which filter you use, or how you handle unblocking sites, it is important to keep your patrons informed of the underlying reasons for filtering the Internet and all the procedures associated with implementing that policy. The Internet Use Policy should be readily available for all users accessing the Internet on library computers. Handouts about the filter and how to turn off filtering or request that a page be unblocked should also be readily available to patrons. If multiple filter profiles are available to choose from, make sure that guidance is provided so that patrons can make the choices that suit them.