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Online Doc Draft - Rating Systems An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

by Deborah Caldwell-Stone (staff) on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 01:51 pm

Draft 6.0 May 29, 2015

 

Rating Systems

An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

 

Draft 6.0 May 29, 2015

 

Rating Systems

An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

 

Libraries, no matter their size, contain an enormous wealth of viewpoints and are responsible for making those viewpoints available to all. However, libraries do not advocate or endorse the content found in their collections or in resources made accessible through the library. Rating systems appearing in library public access catalogs or resource discovery tools present distinct challenges to these intellectual freedom principles.

 

Rating Systems

 

          Many organizations use or devise rating systems as a means of advising either their members or the general public regarding the organizations’ opinions of the contents and suitability or appropriate age or grade level for use of certain books, films, recordings, websites, games, or other materials.  Rating systems presuppose the existence of individuals or groups with wisdom to determine by their authority what is appropriate or inappropriate for others. Rating systems also presuppose that individuals must be directed in making up their minds about the ideas they examine.  The creation and publication of such systems is a perfect example of the First Amendment’s right of free speech.  However, The American Library Association also affirms the rights of individuals to form their own opinions about resources they choose to read or view.

 

 

The adoption, enforcement, or endorsement, either explicitly or implicitly, of any of these rating systems by a library violates the Library Bill of Rights and may be unconstitutional. If enforcement of labeling or rating systems is mandated by law, the library should seek legal advice regarding the law’s applicability to library operations.

 

Libraries often acquire resources that include ratings as part of their packaging. Librarians should not endorse the inclusion of such rating systems; however, removing or destroying the ratings—if placed there by the publisher, distributor, or copyright holder—could constitute expurgation (see “Expurgation of Library Materials: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights”).

 

Because AACRII, RDA and the MARC format provide an opportunity for libraries to include ratings in their bibliographic records, many libraries have chosen to do so – some by acceptance of standard records containing such ratings and others by a desire to provide the maximum descriptive information available on a resource.  Libraries are not required by cataloging codes to provide this information.  However, if they choose do so, whatever the reason, they should add a disclaimer to their catalog or discovery tool displays indicating that the library does not endorse any external rating system.

 

The inclusion of ratings on bibliographic records in library catalogs or discovery tools may be interpreted as an endorsement by the library.  Therefore, without a disclaimer, inclusion of such ratings is a violation of the Library Bill of Rights.

 

The fact that libraries do not advocate or use rating systems does not preclude them from answering questions about such systems. In fact, providing access to sources containing information on rating systems in order to meet the specific information seeking needs of individual users is perfectly appropriate. 

 

Adopted July 13, 1951, by the ALA Council; amended June 25, 1971; July 1, 1981; June 26, 1990; January 19, 2005; July 15, 2009; and July 1, 2014.

 

 

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Online Doc Draft - Labeling Systems An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

by Deborah Caldwell-Stone (staff) on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 01:55 pm

Draft 6.0, May 29, 2015

 

Labeling Systems

An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

 

Draft 6.0, May 29, 2015

 

Labeling Systems

An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

 

The American Library Association affirms the rights of individuals to form their own opinions about resources they choose to read, view, listen to, or otherwise access.  Libraries do not advocate the ideas found in their collections or in resources accessible through the library. The presence of books and other resources in a library does not indicate endorsement of their contents by the library. Likewise, providing access to digital information does not indicate endorsement or approval of that information by the library. Labeling systems present distinct challenges to these intellectual freedom principles.

 

Labels may be a library-sanctioned means of organizing resources or providing guidance to users.  They may be as simple as a colored dot or strip of tape indicating reference books or fiction or as elaborate as the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress call number systems.

 

Labels as viewpoint-neutral directional aids are intended to facilitate access by making it easier for users to locate resources. Users may choose to consult or ignore the directional aids at their own discretion.  Viewpoint-neutral directional labels are a convenience designed to save time. These are different in intent from attempts to prejudice, discourage, or encourage users to access particular library resources or to restrict access to library resources. Labeling as an attempt to prejudice attitudes is a censor’s tool. The American Library Association opposes labeling as a means of predisposing people’s attitudes toward library resources.

 

Prejudicial labels are designed to restrict access, based on a value judgment that the content, language, or themes of the resource, or the background or views of the creator(s) of the resource, render it inappropriate or offensive for all or certain groups of users. The prejudicial label is used to warn, discourage, or prohibit users or certain groups of users from accessing the resource. Such labels sometimes are used to place materials in restricted locations where access depends on staff intervention.

 

Directional aids can also have the effect of prejudicial labels when their implementation becomes proscriptive rather than descriptive. When directional aids are used to forbid access or to suggest moral or doctrinal endorsement, the effect is the same as prejudicial labeling.  Even well- intentioned labels may have this effect. 

 

Prejudicial labeling systems assume that the libraries have the institutional wisdom to determine what is appropriate or inappropriate for its users to access. They presuppose that individuals must be directed in making up their minds about the ideas they examine. The American Library Association opposes the use of prejudicial labeling systems and affirms the rights of individuals to form their own opinions about resources they choose to read, view, listen to, or otherwise access.

 

Adopted July 13, 1951, by the ALA Council; amended June 25, 1971; July 1, 1981; June 26, 1990; January 19, 2005; July 15, 2009; and July 1, 2014.

 

 

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Online Doc Draft - Internet Filtering: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

by Deborah Caldwell-Stone (staff) on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 01:53 pm

Draft 11.0, May 29, 2015

Internet Filtering: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

 

Draft 11.0, May 29, 2015

Internet Filtering: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

 

In the span of a single generation the Internet has revolutionized the basic functions and operations of libraries and schools and expanded exponentially both the opportunities and challenges these institutions face in serving their users. During this time many schools and libraries in the United States have installed content filters on their Internet access. They have done so for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the requirement to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in order to be eligible to receive federal funding or discounts through the Library Services and Technology Act, Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Universal Service discount program (E-rate), or to comply with state filtering requirements that may also be tied to state funding. Their rationale for filtering is that it is better to have filtered access than no access.

CIPA specifically requires public libraries and schools seeking e-rate discounts for internet connections   to install technology protection measures, i.e., content filters, to block  two categories of  visual images that are unprotected by the First Amendment:  obscene images and images of child pornography. These are categories of images the Supreme Court has consistently ruled outside the constitutional protection of the First Amendment.  CIPA also requires those libraries and schools to block a third category of images for minors under the age of 17 that courts deem "harmful for minors" that are constitutionally protected for adults but not for minors. CIPA does not require libraries and schools to block any other constitutionally protected categories of images, or any constitutionally protected categories of speech.

Research demonstrates that filters consistently both over and under block the content they claim to filter.  Filters often block adults and minors from access to a wide range of constitutionally protected speech. Content filters are unreliable because computer code and algorithms are still unable to adequately interpret, assess, and categorize the complexities of human communication whether expressed in text or image. In the case of websites containing sexually explicit images, the success rate of filters is frequently no greater than chance.  In addition, the use of content filters cedes vital library and school resource and service decisions to external parties (private companies and contractors) who then exercise unknown and unaccountable influence over basic functions of the library or school and users’ access to library or school resources and services.1 In addition to this research, the experience of librarians and educators working within the constraints of CIPA suggests that filters are unreliable and routinely circumvented by technologically adept users.

Most content filters are designed and marketed for a much larger market than libraries and schools, and offer options for filtering wide categories of protected speech such as objectionable language, violence, and unpopular or controversial opinion, as well as entire categories of Internet-based services such as e-mail and social media. In addition many content filters operate on an “opt out” model where the filter defaults “on” unless the user is given the option to shut it off. Categories frequently are set to default to the most stringent settings and may only be adjusted by administrative intervention. 

Unblocking for adults on request was a key factor in the Supreme Court decision to uphold CIPA in public libraries.2 This has proved to be equivocal in actual practice in some libraries, because of the unwillingness or inability of libraries to unblock when requested, especially when system administrators may be outside of library administrative control.  While some filtering systems allow librarians at the local or end user level to modify the filter settings, others restrict that authorization to the highest administrative levels, creating lengthy delays in the processing of user requests to unblock erroneously filtered content.

This same situation also occurs in schools.  Such delays represent de facto blocking for both library users and K-12 students, because most users rarely have the flexibility or time to wait hours or even days for resources to become available.  This dilemma is exacerbated by the secrecy surrounding category definitions and settings maintained by the filtering industry, frequently under the guise of trade secrets. There are also issues of user privacy when users must identify themselves and their interests when asking for specific websites to be unblocked.  Certainly, both adults and students researching highly personal or controversial topics will be reluctant to subject themselves to administrative review in order to have access to information that should be freely available to them.

In schools, the CIPA requirements have frequently been misinterpreted with the result of overly restrictive filtering that blocks many constitutionally protected images and texts. Educators are unable to use the wealth of Internet resources for instruction, and minor students are blocked from content relevant to their school assignments and personal interests. Interactive websites and social media sites are frequently restricted, and are thus unavailable to educators for developing assignments that teach students to live and work in the global digital environment.  In many cases students are prevented from creating and sharing their documents, videos, graphics, music and other original content with classmates or the wider world; thus valuable learning opportunities are lost. These situations occur in schools when librarians, educators and educational considerations are excluded from the development and implementation of appropriate, least-restrictive filtering policies and procedures.  Minor students, and the librarians and educators who are responsible for their learning experience, should not be blocked from accessing websites or web-based services that provide constitutionally protected content that meets educational needs or personal interests even though some may find that content objectionable or offensive.  Minors and the adult educators who instruct them should be able to request the unblocking of websites that do not fall under the categories of images required to be filtered under the Children's Internet Protection Act.

CIPA-mandated content filtering has had three significant impacts in our schools and libraries. First, it has widened the divide between those who can afford to pay for personal access and those who must depend on publicly funded (and filtered) access. Second, when content filtering is deployed to limit access to what some may consider objectionable or offensive, often minority viewpoints religions, or controversial topics are included in the categories of what is considered objectionable or offensive. Filters thus become the tool of bias and discrimination  and marginalize users by denying or abridging their access to these materials.   Finally, when over-blocking occurs in public libraries and schools, library users, educators, and students who lack other means of access to the Internet are limited to the content allowed by unpredictable and unreliable filters.

The negative effects of content filters on Internet access in public libraries and schools are demonstrable and documented.  Consequently, consistent with previous resolutions,  the American Library Association cannot recommend filtering.3 However the ALA recognizes that local libraries and schools are governed by local decision makers and local considerations and often must rely on  federal or state funding for computers and internet access. Because adults and, to a lesser degree minors, have First Amendment rights, libraries and schools that choose to use content filters should implement policies and procedures that mitigate the negative effects of filtering to the greatest extent possible.  The process should encourage and allow users to ask for filtered websites and content to be unblocked, with minimal delay and due respect for user privacy.

________________________________________
1 Kristen R. Batch. “Filtering Out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act 10 Years Later.” (ALA OITP & OIF Policy Brief No. 5, June 2014).
2 United States v. American Library Association, Inc., 539 U.S 194 (2003).

3 “Resolution on the Use of Filtering Software in Libraries” (1997) and “Resolution on Opposition to Federally Mandated Internet Filtering” (2001)

 

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Online Doc Draft - User Generated Content An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

by Deborah Caldwell-Stone (staff) on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 01:52 pm

Draft Version 2.1, June 1, 2015

 

User Generated Content

An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

 

Draft Version 2.1, June 1, 2015

 

User Generated Content

An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

 

With the widespread use of library technology that incorporates social media components, intelligent objects and knowledge sharing tools, comes the ability of libraries to offer their patrons greater engagement with user-generated content (UGC) also known as user-created content (UCC).  These features vary from the ability of users to contribute commentary such as lengthy content reviews or to simple point and click rating systems (e.g. one star to five stars) to extensive social interactions.  In such instances, it is clear that patrons, if left unchecked, may vastly transform authoritative files, information architecture and change the flow of information within the library system.  Libraries enabling user-generated content must clearly distinguish between such user-generated content and official library-sanctioned content.  In addition, such a distinction should serve to affirm both the user's First Amendment right to free expression and his or her responsibility for that expression.

 

Adopted July 13, 1951, by the ALA Council; amended June 25, 1971; July 1, 1981; June 26, 1990; January 19, 2005; July 15, 2009; and July 1, 2014.

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Online Doc Draft - User Generated Content An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

by Deborah Caldwell-Stone (staff) on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 01:47 pm

Draft Version 2.1, June 1, 2015

 

User Generated Content

An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

 

Draft Version 2.1, June 1, 2015

 

User Generated Content

An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

 

With the widespread use of library technology that incorporates social media components, intelligent objects and knowledge sharing tools, comes the ability of libraries to offer their patrons greater engagement with user-generated content (UGC) also known as user-created content (UCC).  These features vary from the ability of users to contribute commentary such as lengthy content reviews or to simple point and click rating systems (e.g. one star to five stars) to extensive social interactions.  In such instances, it is clear that patrons, if left unchecked, may vastly transform authoritative files, information architecture and change the flow of information within the library system.  Libraries enabling user-generated content must clearly distinguish between such user-generated content and official library-sanctioned content.  In addition, such a distinction should serve to affirm both the user's First Amendment right to free expression and his or her responsibility for that expression.

 

Adopted July 13, 1951, by the ALA Council; amended June 25, 1971; July 1, 1981; June 26, 1990; January 19, 2005; July 15, 2009; and July 1, 2014.

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Discussion Four Draft Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights Posted

by Doug Archer on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 11:47 am

IFC Colleagues,

At last, all four of our current drafts have been posted to the ALA Council space in ALA Connect.  I have asked that comments be sent to Connect so that they are collated in one place for each of the interpretations.  In a week or two, I will forward all comments received to that point to our list.  If I try to send them one at a time, they could present a real organizational problem -- if your email folder is like mine!  : )

Thanks again for all of the hard work.

Best wishes,

Doug

archer.1@nd.edu

Online Doc 2015 Annual Conference Office for Intellectual Freedom Schedule

by Nanette Perez (staff) on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 10:06 am

This grid includes days/times for all OIF meetings such as IFC, IFRT, ETHICS, and FTRF. This also is exhibit IX of the IFC Midwinter Meeting agenda.

Online Doc Draft IFC Minutes from the 2014 Annual Conference

by Nanette Perez (staff) on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 05:18 pm

Online Doc 2014 IFC Midwinter Meeting Agenda with Exhibits

by Nanette Perez (staff) on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 04:50 pm

Pages

To recommend such steps as may be necessary to safeguard the rights of library users, libraries, and librarians, in accordance with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Library Bill of Rights as adopted by the ALA Council. To work closely with the Offi ce for Intellectual Freedom and with other units and offi cers of the Association in matters touching intellectual freedom and censorship.

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