Internet Access and Safety Policy & Guidelines

The mission of the Birmingham Public Library is to provide the highest quality library service to our citizens for life long learning, cultural enrichment and enjoyment.


The Birmingham Public Library provides Internet access to the public in order to make available a vast array of information resources and to allow members of the public to become familiar with state-of-the-art information technology.

The Birmingham Public Library has no control over the information accessed through the Internet and cannot be held responsible for its content or accuracy. Users are hereby notified that they are responsible for the access points they reach. Parents of minor children must assume responsibility for their children's use of or exposure to the Internet through the library's connection.

The Birmingham Public Library subscribes to a filtering service that has been installed on all public and staff Internet computer workstations. However, the filtering service will be turned off at the request of any adult user. The filtering service limits the amount of pornographic or obscene materials available on the Internet, but no filtering service is completely effective. The Library does not control or edit what is made available or filtered out by this service.

The Internet and its resources contain a wide variety of information and opinions from varied points of view. The library strives to balance the rights of users to access these resources with the rights of people to work in a public environment free from disruptive sounds and offensive visuals. There are information resources on the Internet that are inappropriate for display in a public setting. Staff members will request that a patron end an Internet session if in the staff member's judgement, the site is inappropriate. Illegal or disruptive activities that interfere with users, services, or equipment are prohibited. The library does not permit the use of chat rooms and other Internet services and products that do not support the library's mission.

  • Dissemination or public display of obscene matter is a misdemeanor in Alabama. (13A-12-200.3)
  • Dissemination or public display of obscene matter containing visual reproduction of persons under 17 years of age involved in obscene acts is a Class B felony in Alabama. (13A-12-191)

Violation of ordinances 13A-12-200.3 and 13A-12-191 may subject you to loss of library privileges or criminal prosecution. Copies obtained from the Internet may be subject to copyright law. Violation of the law may subject you to an action for damages and/or an injunction.

Internet Access

The Internet, a worldwide network of computer networks, is an essential medium for obtaining and transmitting information of all types. Therefore, public access to the Internet is germane to the Birmingham Public Library (the Library) mission.

However, the Internet is an unregulated medium. It also provides access to information that is inaccurate or illegal or that some may find offensive or disturbing. The Library will identify on its web site specific Internet sites that have potential interest for Library users. But the Library cannot control a user's access to other Internet resources.

I. Responsibilities of BIRMINGHAM PUBLIC LIBRARY Users and Staff

Library staff will not monitor a user's Internet use, except for length of use of computers in order to ensure equal opportunity of access for everyone. The user, or the parent of a minor who is a user, is responsible for his or her Internet session(s) at all times.

The Library reserves the right to terminate an Internet session that disrupts Library services or that involves user behavior in violation of the Internet policies or rules as set forth in this Policy or the Birmingham Public Library Rules of Behavior (adopted by the Birmingham Public Library Board on April 24, 1994).

Parents are responsible for their minor children's use of the Library's resources and facilities. As with all Library resources, the Library affirms the right and responsibility of parents/guardians, NOT Library staff, to determine and monitor their minor children's use of the Internet. Parents who believe that their children cannot responsibly use the Library's Internet access are requested to monitor their children's Internet use.

II. Unacceptable Uses of Network and/or Computers

Among the uses that are considered unacceptable and which constitute a violation of this Policy are the following:

A. Uses that violate the law or encourage others to violate the law. Transmitting of offensive or harassing messages; offering for sale or use any substance the possession or use of which is prohibited by law; viewing, transmitting or downloading pornographic materials or materials that encourage others to violate the law; uses that are harmful to minors; downloading or transmitting confidential, trade secret information, or copyrighted materials. Even if materials on the networks are not marked with the copyright symbol, users should assume that all materials are protected unless there is explicit permission on the materials to use them.

The term "harmful to minors" is defined by the Communications Act of 1934 (47 USC Section 254 [h][7]), as meaning:

  • any picture, image, graphic image file, or other visual depiction that taken as a whole and with respect to minors, appeals to a prurient interest in nudity, sex, or excretion;
  • depicts, describes, or represents, in a patently offensive way with respect to what is suitable for minors, an actual or
  • simulated sexual act or sexual contact, actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual acts, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals;
  • taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value as to minors.

Violations Specific to Alabama include these:

  • Dissemination or public display of obscene matter is a misdemeanor in Alabama. Code of Alabama 13A-12-200.3
  • Dissemination or public display of obscene matter containing visual reproduction of person under 17 years of age involved in obscene acts is a Class B felony in Alabama. Code of Alabama 13A-12-191.
  • Violation of the above ordinances 13A-12-200.3 and 13A-12-191 may subject you to loss of library privileges or criminal prosecution.
  • Copies obtained from the Internet may be subject to copyright law. Violation of the law may subject you to an action for damages and/or an injunction.

B. Uses that cause harm to others or damage to their property. Engaging in defamation (harming another's reputation by lies); uploading a worm, virus, "Trojan horse," "time bomb" or other harmful form of programming or vandalism; participating in "hacking" activities or any form of unauthorized access to other computers, networks, or information systems.

C. Uses that jeopardize the security of the computer network or other networks on the Internet. Disclosing or sharing the user's library card password with others; impersonating another user; using one's own software programs on the Library's computers; altering the Library computer settings; damaging or modifying computer equipment or software.

D. Uses that compromise the safety and security of minors by means of e-mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications: Children under 16 years of age may not disseminate private information about themselves or others. This includes giving out credit card and Social Security numbers and arranging without the permission parents any face-to-face meetings with others they have "met" on the computer network or Internet.

III. Internet Safety

A. General Warning; Individual Responsibility of Parents and Users. All users and their parents/guardians are advised that access to the electronic network may include the potential for access to materials inappropriate for children. Every user must take responsibility for his or her use of the computer network and Internet and stay away from these sites. Parents of minors are the best guides to materials to shun. If a child finds that other users are visiting offensive or harmful sites, he or she should report such use to Library staff.

B. Personal Safety: Minors using the computer network or Internet should not reveal personal information. They should never give out a home address or telephone number, real last name, or any other information to people who might try to locate them. Children should not arrange face-to-face meetings with people they have "met" on the Internet. Regardless of age, users should never agree to meet people they have communicated with on the Internet in a secluded place or a private setting.

C. "Hacking" and Other Illegal Activities. It is a violation of this Policy to use the public Library computer network or the Internet to gain unauthorized access to other computers or computer systems, or to attempt to gain such unauthorized access. Any use which violates state or federal law relating to copyright, trade secrets, the distribution of obscene or pornographic materials, or which violates any other applicable law or municipal ordinance, is strictly prohibited.

D. Confidentiality of Library Records:

  • Code of Alabama 41-8-10. Registration, etc. records of public libraries to be confidential; right of parents to inspect records.
  • Code of Alabama 36-12-40. Inspection and Copying of Records.

Personally identifiable information concerning users may not be disclosed or used in any way on the Internet without the permission of a parent or guardian (of a minor child), or the permission of the user himself/herself. Users should never give out private or confidential information about themselves or others on the Internet, particularly credit card numbers and Social Security numbers. The Library director may authorize the release of directory information, as defined by the Code of Alabama, for internal administrative or planning purposes. Any disclosure of current patron information to legal authorities, as required by law with search warrant or subpoena, must be authorized by the Director of the Library.

IV. Disclaimers

While the Library endeavors to provide access to information of the highest quality, the Library specifically disclaims any warrant as to the information's accuracy, timeliness, authority, usefulness or fitness for a particular purpose.

The Library will have no liability for direct, indirect or consequential damages related to the use of information accessed through the Library's Internet service.

Since software and information downloaded from any sources, including the Internet, may contain computer viruses, users are advised to utilize virus-checking software on their home computers. The Library is not responsible for damage to users' disks or computers or for any loss of data, damage or liability that may occur from use of the Library 's computers or ultimately to the Library for a specified amount of time.

V. Procedures

The Birmingham Public Library has developed rules, policies and procedures to ensure the fair and reasonable use of Internet access at each Library location. These rules may vary slightly according to local branch resources.

VI. Response to Violations

The user's access to the Library s computer network and Internet is a privilege, not a right. A user violates this Policy by his or her own action or by failing to report any violations by other users that come to the attention of the user. Further, a user violates this Policy if he or she permits another to use his or her Library card account or password to access the computer network and Internet. Failure to comply with this Policy and its procedures may result in the forfeiture of the user's right to access Library computers or ultimately to the Library for a specified amount of time.


These guidelines apply to all users of the Birmingham Public Library's public computers. Failure to comply with these guidelines will result in the loss of library privileges.

  • You are expected to observe the Rules of the Birmingham Public Library as adopted by the Library Board on April 21, 1994.
  • Internet access is available during all regular operating hours. Basic instructions for use will be available.
  • Time limits are established for use according to location and demand.
  • Reservations for public computer use may be made one day in advance.
  • Location and demand determine the length of reserved time slots. Appointments begin and end at the scheduled times.
  • No more than two patrons may use a computer at one time.
  • Information may be saved by printing or downloading to your own diskette. Copies cost $.15 (fifteen cents) per page. The Birmingham Public Library is not responsible for any damage to your disk or computer resulting from information downloaded from a library computer.

Revised by the Birmingham Public Library Board June 27, 2002

Page Last Modified: 1/21/2014 12:21 PM